a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 589.6 Pt. 2 

Guest: Heather Paul, Exec. Director, National Safe Kids Campaign 

Topic: Safe Kids Buckle Up Campaign 

Host/Producer: Steve Girard 

SPOT: Small pages....big advice on parenting...from infants to teens. What to expect, emotionally and physically, as your child grows. How to develop positive discipline,how to deal with kids and TV, adolescent issues, drug education, fighting, single and step parenting...it’s all in the ‘Little Book of Parenting, available through the National Emergency Medicine Association. Call 1-800-332-6362 for more information.  

NEMA: Auto crashes kill more of our kids than anything else...and one of the reasons is that 40% of drivers don’t restrain the kids riding with them. 40%! So, riding with Mom, Dad or another care giver...such a normal, supposedly safe event...is the most dangerous for kids....today, Heather Paul...Executive Director of the National Safe Kids Campaign...is with us....  

PAUL: Steve....I just wish that more parents knew that motor vehicle crashes really are the number one killer of kids between the ages of 1 and 14. And there’s an awful lot parents and care givers can do to make sure their children are restrained. We’ve got more than 14 hundred children ages 14 and under dying every year in motor vehicle crashes...and over a quarter million seriously injured. And the real tragedy is that these injuries and deaths, for the most part, just don’t have to happen.  

NEMA: We’ve come a long way in making known the importance of securing kids in cars...and in the last year or so, we’ve had a scare about passenger side air bags and kids riding in that seat...how do we best protect our kids in the car?  

PAUL: Well, another very strange and sad happenstance is that right now, 4 out of 5 car seats are improperly installed, which boggles the mind. Outside of over a third of children not riding restrained at all, one can imagine that’s still the case. There’s still many parents that don’t understand how important it is to buckle up their children. But, of the majority that do restrain their children....they just can’t get it right when it comes to installing that car seat. And there are lots of reasons for it. First of all, there are so many different designs of car seats out there...parents are not sure what age child goes in what seat. They are confused about children who should ride in the front seat, in the back...in fact, those messages have changed of late, and have gotten much more direct, and that we are now recommending that all children 12 years and under travel in the back seat, regardless of an air bag. An air bag on the passenger side makes it very dangerous for a small child up front...but in general, it’s a much safer place to be....it’s much safer to be in the back seat for all children.  

NEMA: The figures show that only 60% of kids are restrained at all...and of those who are, four out of five are not buckled in properly....it seems we’re not doing a very good job of keeping our kids protected in the car....  

PAUL: When you say that four out of five are improperly installed, it doesn’t mean that they’re all at huge risk...it just means that those seats can be more...there can be a better fit for each of those seats...there’s a little more parents can do to make sure that their cars seats are used optimally. Of course, to be restrained in any way, even close to properly, is much, much better than being unrestrained (at all) EDIT  

NEMA: We’re just thrilled about this program we have. The National Safe Kids Campaign is partnered with General Motors to provide car seat checkups and videos and brochures for General Motors dealerships across the country, as well as Head Start centers, pediatricians offices, public health clinics and children’s hospitals. And we’re partnering with General Motors because they are making available, free of charge, these materials to any parents who call for them. We actually have a 1-800 number and parents can call for those free videos and brochures...so this is a really exciting opportunity. Safe Kids Buckle Up number is 1-800-441-1888.  

NEMA: Let’s go over some of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to secure their kids in the car....  

PAUL: First of all, parents don’t understand the importance of a locking clip for rear facing infant seats...it’s a very important way to get a tight fit between the lap and shoulder belt. Some folks don’t even know how to install the seat and attach it to the car...if you could imagine, there are lots of crashes with children in car seats that aren’t even connected to the seat of the car. Another important issue is that children are too young, and they’re being put in convertible seats at too young an age, and facing forward...when actually, their necks are not strong enough yet to be facing forward. So, in those crash forces, children are safer rear facing up until at least 22 pounds. And I think, I know that parents are moving them too quickly as an infant from rear facing to forward facing. So, some of the stuff gets pretty technical, and we are gratified that we have this partnership with G.M. that we can actually offer car seat checkups around the country, whereby we offer free of charge, through a dealership, an opportunity for parents to come on by and see if their cars seats are actually properly installed.  

NEMA: How long does the program go?  

PAUL: We have a five year partnership with General Motors right now, and our over 230 Safe Kids Coalitions around the country are now trained to do car seat checkups that we hope to do as long as we can to fix this problem...and actually we’d like to make sure we’re out of business in a few years.  

NEMA: About Safe Kids Campaign in general...I took the test you had on your web site...and I didn’t do as well as I should....  

PAUL: The National Safe Kids Campaign is really a wonderful grass roots movement, and all 230 coalitions are made up of firefighters and police and emergency nurses and public health officials, all with a vested interest in preventing this number one killer of kids. And we have for instance, a family safety check, which we’ve distributed over tens of millions of copies of...which basically allows you to go to your house and check off just those simple steps that parents can take to keep their families safe. Like, for instance, checking your smoke detector regularly, making sure all your children wear bike helmets all the time when they ride, that they’re restrained properly in cars, that their playground areas have soft surfaces, so kids aren’t taking terrible falls in the back yard or a community playground. So, there are very simple steps parents can take if they just knew what they were.  

NEMA: How can people get involved with Safe Kids...?  

PAUL: Well, the best thing to do, if you like to participate in a Safe Kid Coalition, and all the activities that we offer..and ways to save children’s lives...they can call our main office number here in Washington, D.C., at 202-662-0600, and then our field representatives will put concerned parents or volunteers in contact with their local coalitions, which we have in every state.  

NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today’s program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.org/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I’m Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.