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Rates of improper use of child car seats 10-fold higher among ethnic minority children

Community educators strive to improve the odds

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 7:37 p.m. MDT

"We don't have any lack of business, that's for sure. We're busy the entire time," Brooks said.

Aside from obtaining age-appropriate passenger safety seats, parents need to know how to properly install the seats. Trained installation specialists are available statewide to help parents learn proper techniques. Visit Safe Kids Utah http://www.safekidsutah.org for information on local resources and general information on child safety seats.

Brooks said trainers occasionally encounter cultural issues with respect to use of child safety seats.

In some cultures, items that come in contact with children need to be blessed by priests or religious leaders to ensure they bring no harm to the child or their family, Brooks said.

Brooks said some tribal members in Utah live in remote areas. Their sole means of transportation are pickups that carry large water tanks because there is no running water in their homes. There are limited numbers of seats in the cabs of the vehicles so some people allow their children to ride unrestrained in the bed of the pickups. Those practices endanger those passengers.

Interestingly, tribal nations have some of the toughest seatbelt and booster laws in the nation. "But they're not being enforced," she said.

Urban dwellers skirt child restraint laws for other reasons. Some say their children are uncooperative or they do not have a sufficient number of booster seats or seat belts for every child in their carpool. Some people rationalize that they're only traveling short distances so buckling up isn't a high priority.

Even a low-speed crash can have fatal consequences, Brooks said.

"We don't have a culture of safety. We mostly have a culture of convenience," she said.

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for children above the age of 3. They are responsible for more than 140,000 children's emergency-room visits a year.

Drivers need to consider those consequences when they fail to enforce the laws in their own cars when transporting their children or their children's friends.

"Which one of those parents do you want to tell 'Your kid was not buckled up and we got into a crash' " Brooks said. 

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For more information visit: http://intermountainhealthcare.org/hospitals/primarychildrens/childhealth/parenting/carseats/pages/home.aspx

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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