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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Law enforcement cracks down on child safety in motor vehicles

Officers will be looking for children who are not properly secured in booster seats.

Law enforcement is cracking down on child restraint safety as part of its National Child Passenger Safety Week promotion.

Additional traffic officers will be on duty Sept. 18 through 24 to initiate an aggressive response to minors who are not properly restrained in motor vehicles, either with seatbelts or properly-secured booster seats.

“Anyone who has seen the results of a child not restrained properly knows,” Boone County Sgt. Brian Leer said. “You just look at it and see how senseless that loss is and how preventable that loss is. You just never forget.”

By partnering with statewide law enforcement, Leer said he hopes to prevent such loss.

The program is also tied to National Seat Check Saturday, a day when booster seat technicians will be available to provide free checks to ensure child booster seats are properly installed.

Both programs are sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to NHTSA, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children ages 4 to 14 in America. The NHTSA hopes to change that statistic with this program.

Funding for the program comes from a grant received from the Missouri Department of Transportation, which will be used to pay overtime to officers who would otherwise be off duty. This guarantees a strong police presence throughout Child Passenger Safety Week.

“Regular child safety seat and safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes,” Traffic Unit Sgt. Curtis Perkins said in a news release.

Officers are looking to fine violators of state law regarding child safety in motor vehicles. Children younger than 8, shorter than 4 feet 9 inches or who weigh less than 80 pounds, are required by Missouri State Law to be in a booster seat.

Additionally, all children younger than 16 are required by Missouri State law to wear a seat belt. Violations of either law classify as a primary offense, meaning officers can pull a vehicle over if it appears that either is law is being broken, even if the driver has committed no other infraction.

Officers will be pulling over cars if it appears children are not following either rule, Leer said.

Missouri resident Zelda Ygsi, a mother of two, supports this stern enforcement of child safety laws by police.

“It should be up to the law to enforce because it is for the children’s safety,” Ygsi said.

Both of Ygsi’s children were properly restrained in booster seats until they met the legal height and weight requirements, she said.

“The overall goal is to increase the proper use of child restraints,” Leer said. “That’s why we do the big campaigns. They know they’re going to contact more people that way. The ultimate goal is to educate folks.”

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