August 17, 2005

Auto safety group says rear seats best for kids

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A shift by drivers over the past
decade to put children in the back seat of passenger vehicles,
instead of the front, and buckle them up has helped cut child
deaths in auto crashes, a study found on Wednesday.

Results reported by the National Safety Council's air bag
and seat belt campaign mirrored other recent findings. But the
safety group said its report was the most comprehensive
analysis confirming rear seats are the safest for children. The
data relied heavily on government statistics.

"This is the clearest evidence we've seen that the national
public health campaigns begun in 1996 to get children properly
restrained in a back seat are working and paying off," said
Phil Haseline, executive director of the safety campaign.

Education efforts a decade ago were prompted by deaths and
injuries caused by the impact of front passenger air bags.
Automakers have since calibrated the devices to lessen the
forcefulness of their impact.

The latest report found that rear seating, greater use of
child safety seats and safety belts have cut deaths of children
up to age 12 by 236, or 18 percent, between 1996-2003. There
was no analysis of injuries but more than 240,000 children were
hurt in car crashes in 2003, according to federal data.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for
children of every age between 2 and 14, and account for roughly
5 percent of all traffic fatalities, government figures show.
About a third involve children who are not restrained by a
safety seat or a seat belt.

A government safety report in April showed that children
seated in the front seat were 1.5 times more likely to be
killed in a crash than those in rear seats.

More than 42,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last