Under Section 14(i) of the Transportation Recall Enhancement,
Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, the Secretary of
Transportation is required to, "
develop [a] 5 year strategic
plan to reduce deaths and injuries caused by failure to use the
appropriate booster seat in the 4 to 8 year old age group by 25
percent." While this is a highly desirable goal, the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) research shows that
a 25 percent reduction in deaths and injuries would not be attainable
through the implementation of a program designed solely to increase
proper use of belt-positioning booster seats. This view is borne
out by the following data:
- Virtually 100 percent restraint use by booster seat age children
would be necessary to achieve a 25 percent reduction in total
fatalities for this age group; and,
- Only about 21 percent of 4- to 8-year-old children are reported
as unrestrained in non-fatal crashes. Therefore, the number of
unrestrained children is insufficient to produce a 25 percent
reduction in the number of injured children, even if all were
The Agency's research also shows that the lack of any restraint
use in a motor vehicle is the greatest risk to 4- to 8-year-old
passengers. In 2000, almost half of the 4- to 8-year-old passengers
killed in crashes were reported as totally unrestrained. In addition
to the high number of fatalities, thousands of children were seriously
injured in crashes because they were unrestrained.
Persuading parents who do not restrain their children at all to
place them in any kind of occupant restraint would reduce the number
of children killed or seriously injured. Providing additional protection
to these children from belt-positioning booster seats would further
enhance their overall safety. Therefore, NHTSA has broadened the
scope of its booster seat program to include increasing restraint
use, in general, among 4- to 8-year-old children.
The Strategic Plan
In public meetings and through written comments, citizens from
across the country contributed their ideas for this strategic plan.
Its purpose is to provide a blueprint for decreasing the number
of children who ride unrestrained and promoting the use of booster
seats for children ages 4 to 8. In so doing, the plan provides the
Agency's recommended guidelines for booster seat use.
All children who have outgrown child safety seats should be
properly restrained in booster seats until they are at least 8
years old, unless they are 4'9" tall. Children are large
enough for a lap and shoulder belt when they can sit against the
vehicle seat back cushion with their knees bent over the vehicle
The proposed framework of this national strategic plan builds on
NHTSA's current Buckle Up America (BUA) campaign, which has been
extremely successful in increasing the use of child safety seats
for children from birth through 4 years of age and reducing fatalities
and injuries in this age group. The elements of the BUA campaign
are: (1) public-private partnerships; (2) strong legislation; (3)
active, high-visibility law enforcement; and (4) effective public
The plan contains specific activities that individuals representing
a variety of public and private sector organizations and groups
can undertake. These activities range from the conduct of public
information and awareness programs about restraint use and booster
seats, to the upgrading of child passenger safety laws. They address
the need for training, technical assistance, and outreach, as well
as the need for enforcement and resource allocation in support of
child occupant restraint use. Specific activities are identified
for groups that fall under the following categories:
- Federal Government agencies
- State and local agencies and organizations
- National organizations and coalitions
- Health and medical providers
- Child safety seat manufacturers and retailers
- Child passenger safety technicians
- Law enforcement
- Private citizens
To provide a context for increased activities, the plan highlights
the broad base of support for child passenger safety that exists
across the country. NHTSA's public and private sector partners
have incorporated messages and best practices information about
the lifesaving benefits of booster seats throughout their wide-ranging
child passenger safety programming and communications activities.
States and communities have received funding for some of these programs
and activities through a number of highway safety grants that are
funded under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
Meeting the Challenge
There are numerous challenges to getting 4- to 8-year-old children
secured in booster seats. These range from the lack of information
among parents and other caregivers about: (1) the correct progression
of restraint use for children, (2) how booster seats work, and (3)
the safety benefits of booster seats, to the inconsistency of State
laws pertaining to protecting older children and booster seat use.
Without consistent laws, or laws that provide for mandatory booster
seat use for an older child, parents and other caregivers will continue
to question the need for, and benefits of, booster seats.
To address the many aspects of these challenges, NHTSA and its
public and private sector partners must continue to promote passenger
safety for all motor vehicle occupants. However, we must ultimately
rely on parents and other caregivers to take responsibility for
placing 4- to 8-year-old children in booster
seats when they ride in motor vehicles.
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& Goals for 2006
|To measure progress of its expanded program to
increase all restraint use among 4- to 8-year-olds, while promoting
booster seat use, NHTSA developed the following new objectives
and goals for 2006.
Increase restraint use by 4- to 8-year-old passenger vehicle
Increase restraint use by 4- to 8-year-old occupants to 85 percent
(from 63 percent in 1999).
Reduce the percentage of unrestrained 4- to 8-year-old passenger
vehicle occupant fatalities.
|Goal for 2006
Reduce the percentage of unrestrained 4- to 8-year-old occupants
that die in passenger vehicle crashes to 39 percent (from 63
percent in 1999).
Reduce the severity of injuries to 4- to 8-year-old passenger
vehicle occupants involved in motor vehicle crashes [Data to
measure this objective comes from two different databases, Crashworthiness
Data System (CDS) and General Estimate System (GES); therefore,
there are two goals for this objective].
|CDS Goal for 2006:
Reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries per 100,000
4- to 8-year-old passenger vehicle occupants involved in motor
vehicle crashes to 1,050 (from 1,509 in 1999).
|GES Goal for 2006:Reduce
the number of incapacitating injuries per 100,000 4- to 8-year-old
passenger vehicle occupants to 5,700 (from 6,540 in 1999).