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CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
5139 Westlawn
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 384-4638
e-mail: david-pedersen@uiowa.edu

Release: Dec. 21, 2001

NOTE TO EDITORS: For a table listing the Iowa locations used in the Summer 2001 survey, or for more information, contact John Lundell at (319) 335-4458.

UI survey indicates Iowa child passenger restraint usage at all-time high

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The percent of children appropriately restrained while riding in motor vehicles is at an all-time high in Iowa, according to a survey conducted this summer by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC).

The overall percentage of Iowa children under age 6 who are appropriately restrained while riding in a motor vehicle climbed to 79.2 percent in the 2001 survey. This is the highest level recorded since these surveys began in 1988. Researchers observed 5,912 children under age 6 in motor vehicles, of which 4,684 were judged to be appropriately restrained.

However, small children in rural areas of Iowa are much less likely to be appropriately restrained while riding in a car than those in more populated areas. The survey showed that the smaller the community, the less likely young children were to be in seat belts or car seats appropriate to their size and age. Communities with fewer than 2,500 residents had especially low rates. On average, only 62.2 percent of all children observed riding in motor vehicles in these areas were appropriately restrained. By comparison, cities and towns with populations over 2,500 showed average child passenger restraint rates of 72 percent or better. Iowa's largest communities -- those with more than 50,000 residents -- had the highest rates, averaging 80.8 percent.

Communities with the lowest rates of child restraint use were Armstrong (55.5 percent) and Sigourney (57.5 percent). Highest rates were in areas including West Des Moines (93.7 percent), Council Bluffs (92.1 percent) and Cedar Falls (90 percent).

Iowa law requires that children under age 3 be in a child safety seat whenever they are riding in a motor vehicle. Children between ages 3 and 6 must be in either a safety seat or buckled in with a seat belt. During the first eight months of 2001, five children under age 6 died in car crashes on Iowa roads, according to statistics from the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. During all of 2000, eight children under age 6 were killed on Iowa's roads.

During the survey children who were not restrained were often observed sitting in the laps of either the driver or passenger, standing in the front or back seats, in the cargo areas behind the back seats of vans, or riding in the backs of pickup trucks. Surveyors also observed infants lying on front or back seats, or in safety seats that were not belted into the vehicle or were facing the wrong way.

Researchers expressed concern that parents may mistakenly believe that the roads are safer in rural areas than in urban areas.

"While the statewide average for child passenger restraint usage is favorable, the lower use in rural communities remains a concern. Lower use of car seats and seat belts for children in Iowa's rural areas is consistent with an overall higher rate of preventable injuries and fatalities in rural communities," said John Lundell, the IPRC deputy director. "Although urban traffic crashes are more common, they are generally less likely to cause serious injury and death than rural motor vehicle crashes, where driving speeds are often higher, and emergency treatment resources can be far away."

The safety of Iowa children is also on the increase with more small children being placed in the back instead of the front seat. The rear seat of a motor vehicle is always a safer location for children of all ages to ride. This year, researchers observed that 85.7 percent of children under age 6 were riding in the back seat. This is a 3.7 percent increase over last year, and a substantial jump over the past eight years. In 1993 the number of Iowa children observed in the rear seat was only 52.3 percent.

The child restraint survey is supported by the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau with funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has been conducted each year since 1988. Cars passing 37 different sites around the state were observed by surveyors during the months of May through August 2001. These same sites, which include urban, rural and highway settings, are used each year by the survey team.

"We are glad to see that the number of children traveling in child safety seats has increased," said Jan Goldsmith of the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau. But, she added, caregivers need to read the instructions for proper use of the child safety seat. Goldsmith also emphasized the importance of keeping kids in booster seats until they are age 8. Too often, children are restrained only with lap/shoulder belts when they should also be in booster seats.

For more information, contact John Lundell at the UI Injury Prevention Research Center at (319) 335-4458 or the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau at (515) 281-3907.

IOWA CHILD PASSENGER RESTRAINT SURVEY RESULTS
SUMMER, 2001
The University of Iowa
Injury Prevention Research Center

  2001
Number of
Children
Observed
2001
Number of
Children
Restrained
2001
Child
Restraint
Usage
Algona
169
109
64.5%
Armstrong
119
66
55.5%
Belle Plaine
174
105
60.3%
Council Bluffs-Hwy6-K-Mart
86
74
86.0%
Council Bluffs-Mall of the Bluffs
89
82
92.1%
Cedar Falls
190
171
90.0%
Cedar Rapids
222
190
85.6%
Cherokee
151
84
55.6%
Davenport
232
181
78.0%
Des Moines-E. Euclid
155
128
82.6%
Des Moines-Merle Hay
152
136
89.5%
Des Moines-Southridge
118
104
88.1%
West Des Moines
158
148
93.7%
Dubuque
170
121
71.2%
Dyersville
109
84
77.1%
Fort Dodge
203
175
86.2%
Glenwood
152
125
82.2%
Guthrie Center
117
84
71.8%
Iowa City
172
134
77.9%
Jefferson
114
81
71.1%
Mason City
161
117
72.7%
Newton
199
164
82.4%
Ottumwa
172
141
82.0%
Pocahontas
123
82
66.7%
Red Oak
110
90
81.8%
Sigourney
181
104
57.5%
Sioux City
199
127
63.8%
Storm Lake
184
136
73.9%
Waterloo
201
175
87.1%
Waverly
131
121
92.4%
I-35 Ankeny
253
239
94.5%
I-80 CB-Expy
205
163
79.5%
I-80 Des Moines
48
43
89.6%
I-80 Victor
40
27
67.5%
US 30 Ames
227
218
96.0%
US 30 Boone
165
131
79.4%
US 30 Marshalltown
261
224
85.8%
TOTALS
5912
4684
79.2%