Car accidents last year claimed the lives of more children under 5 than those killed or crippled by the seven most common childhood diseases, but most adults still ignore the car safety of their child passengers.

That fact has prompted the Utah County Commission to proclaim this week as county Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week. Feb. 12-18 also has been named National Child Passenger Awareness Week.In their proclamation, commissioners remind motorists that car accidents are the leading trauma-related cause of spinal cord injuries, epilepsy and mental retardation. Nevertheless, only 55 percent of children under 5 nationwide are fully protected through proper use of safety belts and child safety seats.

In 1986 alone, more than 1,100 children under 5 were killed in traffic accidents, and more than 50,000 were injured.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also warns motorists not to hold children in their laps. Even in minor crashes, children can be torn from an adult's arms or crushed against the dashboard by an unbuckled adult.