New Project Aims at Saving Lives with Seat Belts and Child-Safety Restraints

The Spokane Regional Health District, Liberty Lake Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff's Office, and the City of Spokane Police Department, in partnership with area elementary schools are launching a new project aimed at improving compliance with Washington's Child Passenger Safety law.

Last year, during two separate emphasis patrols focusing on the law, many parents said they were confused about or didn't know that children up to age eight (or 4'9" tall) need to ride in boosters and that children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat, according to Washington law (RCW 46.61.687.).

Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death for Washington's children. In Spokane County, from 2002 through 2008, ten children ages 0-13 died and 54 children were seriously injured in car crashes. Many child passenger safety messages focus on protecting infants and toddlers and state statistics show that parents do a great job of buckling up infants and smaller children. But the focus starts to slack off as children get older.

Our message to parents is this: "Keep infants rear-facing as long as possible; keep smaller children in the five-point harness as long as possible; keep larger children in boosters until 4'9" tall and keep all kids in the back at least until age 13," said Marion Lee, project coordinator for the Spokane Regional Health District.

For this project, three elementary schools were chosen to participate in a contest that will take place the week of October 19th. Members of Safe Kids Spokane will conduct unannounced surveys to measure the level of compliance with Washington's Child Passenger Safety law, particularly as it applies to children under age 13 riding in the back seat. 

Midweek, City of Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich will visit the schools and talk about roadway safety, the law, and will ask students and parents to sign a pledge form to stay in a booster until they are 4'9" and ride in the back seat until they are 13. Those who make the pledge will receive a small prize. 

At the end of the week, another surprise survey will be conducted and the school that shows the greatest improvement in complying with the law will receive a grand prize. This program is being funded by the Spokane Regional Health District and grant money from Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Four additional schools in the area will be surveyed to see what impact media coverage has on schools who are not involved in the contest.

"Our goal is to reduce injuries among children and save lives," said Dr. Joel McCullough, Health Officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. "By improving compliance with Washington's Child Passenger Safety law, we believe that lives will be saved."

Safe Kids Spokane, lead by the Spokane Regional Health District works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14.Safe Kids Spokane is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury.