Remarks of Carol
Acting Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
At the National Safe Kids Campaign's Announcement
Rating the States on the Quality of Their Child Passenger Safety Laws
February 8, 2001
I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board to support this important undertaking to evaluate the child passenger protection laws of the 50 states.
Today's announcement by the National Safe Kids Campaign clearly identifies the deficiencies in each State's law and shows that, with one exception, States have more work to do to fulfill their most basic responsibility of protecting our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
The Safety Board previously called upon the states to strengthen their child passenger protection laws following a 1996 safety study on the performance and use of child safety seats, seat belts, and air bags for children in passenger vehicles. Specifically, the Board recommended that:
· All children under 4 should be required to be in child restraints that are appropriate for their age, height, and weight
· Children ages 4 through 8 should be required to use booster seats
· Substitution of lap/shoulder belts should not be permitted for children under age 8
· All children under age 13 should be required to ride safely in the back seat, if a seat position is available
In addition, the Board has emphasized the importance of providing one level of safety - the highest level - for children. Clearly, today's announcement shows how much work remains to be done to reach one level of safety for children on our streets and highways.
Let me give you an example of one of the biggest areas of improvement needed. We know that seat belts, like air bags, were designed for adults and do not adequately protect small children. Yet 48 of the 50 child passenger protection laws in the country permit, by law, seat belt use for 4- to 8-year-old children rather than requiring them to be in booster seats that are specifically designed for their age, height, and weight.
I respectfully take exception to the National Safe Kids Campaign rating of a "B" for Florida. That State does not require children between the ages of 4 and 8 to be restrained in booster seats, and I do not agree that a State without a booster seat requirement should get an above-average grade.
Improving the quality of the State child passenger protection laws is essential because parents trust that their State law to give them the best guidance regarding protection of their children in cars, vans, and SUV's. It is tragic that children die every week in America in crashes where they are buckled up according to their State law, but their State law is not consistent with the highest level of safety.
I am encouraged that Safe Kids is committing to work over the next five years to strengthen the existing State laws. It is time that we bring all State child passenger protection laws into conformity with the current safety research and that we finally stop motor vehicle crashes from continuing to be the leading cause of death and injury for young children.
Heather and Marty, I want to congratulate you and your staff on this comprehensive and important project. I, and the Safety Board, look forward to working with you and the Safe Kids Coalitions to accomplish strengthening the child passenger protection laws across the country, and more important, to saving children's lives.
Speeches & Testimony