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TXDOT Op-Ed - Save us with a seat

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by Rhonda Oaks

I still can’t wrap my head around why some drivers don’t see the importance or necessity of wearing a seat belt or making sure their little ones are safely secured in a child car seat, booster seat or seat belt.

I saw this on the Lufkin loop just last week and I shuttered thinking about how dangerous it was. The two children were standing in the backseat and the driver seemed oblivious to the fact that he was breaking the law. You ever see a driver breaking the law and wish there were a police officer around? I did. I can only think of one other reason besides the fact that it is the law and it’s quite simple – wearing one will save your life.

A leading cause of death among children involved in vehicle crashes is not being restrained properly or not being restrained at all. It is also a leading cause of fatalities with adults.

Many of us wouldn’t think of driving with children in a car without first making sure they are safely secured. I had children when a car seat turned backwards in the front seat was all I thought was necessary to keep them safe. Now I know that it was not.

While most of you believe your children are properly buckled up, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that a staggering 46-percent of all car seats are not used properly. The best way to keep young children safe in your vehicle is to make sure they’re properly buckled up in a car seat.

Texas law also provides a little motivation for us adults. Failure to properly restrain a child can result in a ticket of up to $250. And for those wondering proper seat belt and car seat safety guidelines, this might help:

• Texas requires drivers and all passengers to wear seat belts.

• Ensure the seatbelt fits snugly across the hips, not over the stomach.

• Ensure shoulder belt goes over the shoulder and across the center of the chest.

• Never tuck the shoulder belt underneath your arm or behind your back.

• Children must be in an appropriate car or booster seat.

• Birth to two years old: All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their safety seat’s manufacturer.

• Over two years old: Any child two or older who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for a car seat, should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.

• Ages four to eight years old: Children whose weight or height exceeds the limit for a forward-facing car seat should switch to a belt-positioning booster seat. These children should remain in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.

These guidelines and laws are in place for a reason. Seat belts and child safety seats save lives. I’ve seen them when they have, and I’ve seen them when they never had the chance to. I hope you choose to stay as safe by buckling up and securing your precious cargo in a child safety seat.

This really is not rocket science and I hope the driver with the unrestrained children reads this. We just want to make sure you and your family are safe, because in that split second before a crash occurs, it’s too late to buckle up.

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