It happens all too frequently on Missouri roadways. Emergency crews respond to the scene of an accident and the victim is a child who was not properly buckled. While the cause of an accident may not be preventable, experts say proper use of safety seats can reduce the number of injuries and deaths of children.
Car crashes are the number-one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. In 2011, 12 children in Missouri under the age of 8 were killed, and 1,778 were injured in traffic crashes.
Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King said the proper use of seatbelts and car seats for children is critical to protecting children in the event of a motor vehicle crash. Having spent 32 years as a Missouri State trooper, King has seen the damage himself.
" I can tell you from experience there is nothing worse than looking into the windshield of a car and realizing a 2 or 3-year-old child's head is what broke the windshield," King said. "I simply can not underestimate the importance"
King said he can't preach the message enough to parents of how important it is to ensure their children are in proper seat belts.
Crain said there is a zero tolerance policy if Missouri seat belt laws are not followed, meaning that if a driver, passenger or child is in violation of state laws, a citation and fine will be issued immediately.
"It's vital that people buckle up, no matter the distance of their trip," Crain stressed.
Statistics highlight the importance of taking a second to use your seat belt.
According to a press release sent out by Troop I, in 2010 Missouri traffic fatalities, 67.7-percent of drivers killed in autos, trucks, vans and motor homes were not wearing seat belts.
The wide range of car seat models on the market today leaves more than a few parents confused. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study revealed that nearly 75 percent of parents don't know how to use child safety restraints properly. Child Passenger Safety Technicians in Missouri report an even higher misuse rate.
"Appropriate car seats are very important for kids' safety." said Leanna Depue, executive committee chair for the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. Missouri law requires all children under eight to be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat, unless they are at least 80 pounds or 4 feet 9 inches tall. It's also very important to change seats to accommodate their growing bodies."
"Properly securing your child in a safety seat is about more than following the law though," Depue said. "Safety seats prevent serious injuries and could save your child's life."
Pulaski County Health Department is one of several agencies in the area that offer free child safety seat checks to the public.