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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Hails First Phase of System To Make Child Seat Installation Safer, Easier

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Hails First Phase of System To Make Child Seat Installation Safer, Easier

August 31, 1999

NHTSA 40-99

Tuesday, August 31, 1999
Contact: NHTSA, Cathy Hickey, (202) 366-9550

Hailing it as another important step forward in implementing the comprehensive national strategy to improve motor vehicle passenger safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater observed that tomorrow is the effective date for the first phase of a new universal child safety seat system that will make installing child seats in passenger cars and light trucks easier and safer for parents.

Beginning tomorrow, Sept. 1, 1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require all new child safety seats to meet stricter head protection standards. To meet this new standard, most forward-facing child seats will be equipped with a tether a strap from the back of the child seat which attaches to the vehicle.

"This is a milestone on the way to safer and easier-to-install child safety seats nothing is more important than the safety of our children," said Secretary Slater. "Tether attachments are an important part of a new universal system that will help keep a child safety seat more securely in place in a crash, thus affording greater protection to children."

President Clinton recognizes safety as the highest transportation priority and in April 1997, as part of a national strategy to increase seat belt use and reduce child fatalities, set a goal to reduce child passenger fatalities 15 percent by 2000 and 25 percent by 2005.

NHTSA estimates that once the universal system is completely phased in, as many as 50 children a year may be saved and injuries may be reduced by 3,000. The final stage of the system, which will be phased in over the next three years, will provide for two lower attachment points in vehicles and child safety seats, in addition to the top tether attachment points.

"This system will make child restraints safer, simpler and more secure," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "It will be easier for parents to do the right thing to protect their children."

This announcement is part of a national education campaign led by NHTSA, which includes auto and child safety seat manufacturers and retailers, to inform consumers about the new system.

All child safety seats will be required to meet the more stringent head protection requirements. For passenger cars, 80 percent of those manufactured after Sept. 1, 1999 must be equipped with top attachment points, and all new passenger cars and light trucks must be equipped by Sept. 1, 2000.

The lower attachment system will be phased in over the next three years and will be in all vehicles and all safety seats manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2002. However, some child restraint and vehicle manufacturers are expected to voluntarily offer the new, lower attachment system as early as next month.

Child restraints, when used properly, reduce the chance of death in an automobile crash by 71 percent. NHTSA estimates that as many as 80 percent of child safety seats are incorrectly used. The agency also estimates that the new universal attachment system will eliminate as much as half of the misuse associated with the improper installation of the child safety seat in the vehicle.

While the new system will make child safety seat installation easier and safer, parents are reminded that all children are safest properly restrained in the back seat, and that infants and children should never be placed in the front of an air bag.

Secretary Slater also reminded parents that there is a proper restraint for children of all sizes. The appropriate restraints are as follows:

* Children weighing less than 20 pounds and younger than 1 year old should be in a rear-facing safety seat placed in the back seat.

* Children weighing more than 20 pounds (but who are not yet 1 year old)should be in a rear-facing safety seat approved for larger infants and placed in the back seat.

* Children at least 20 pounds and one year old, and up to 40 pounds should be in a forward- facing child safety seat placed in the back seat.

* Children weighing more than 40 pounds who can not properly fit in an adult safety belt system should be in a booster seat in the back seat, properly restrained by using both portions of the lap and shoulder belt.

* Children who sit high enough so that they can wear the adult shoulder belt comfortably across their shoulder and secure the lap belt across the pelvis and whose legs are long enough to bend over the front of the seat when their backs are against the vehicle back seat may be placed in an adult lap/shoulder belt system (usually around 4 feet 9 inches).

Many auto manufacturers are offering free or low cost installation of the top attachment for the system in their current fleets. Some child restraint manufacturers also offer tether kits for older child safety seats. Consumers are encouraged to call their manufacturers for information.

Consumers can have their child passenger safety questions answered by calling NHTSA's Auto Safety Hotline at 888-DASH-2-DOT. More information about the new universal child safety seat system is also available on NHTSA's web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/index.html.


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