The research is overwhelming, the statistics are indisputable and the human cost is devastating.
Yet recent car crashes show that plenty of East Valley parents, teenagers and children don’t wear their seat belts.
Overall, people are doing a better job of buckling up themselves and their children, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. But safety experts aren’t sure why a stubborn minority continue to flout the laws of physics. They are, however, sure of the consequences.
"We see the damage that’s done," said Gilbert Police Department traffic Sgt. Ken Buckland. "We’re the ones who have to clean up after them."
Local police and fire departments will provide child safety seat checks, and even offer new seats free to families in need. Perhaps a hurried society or reluctant children, rather than economics, are to blame.
"I would never in a million years go down the road and not have my kids buckled up," Buckland said. "If my kid is reluctant, I’m going to win that battle. I’m the parent."
Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 preventable cause of death of Arizona children older than 1, according to the state Child Fatality Review Team.
Just 18 percent of the kids who died in car crashes from 1995 to 1999 were property restrained, said Dr. Mary Rimsza, student health director at Arizona State University and chairwoman of the review team.
Only 3 percent of teenage drivers in fatal crashes were belted in.
Not only are kids safer when they are properly restrained, but research also shows they cause less trouble.
"The kids may resist, and the parents may give in," Rimsza said. "Yet the literature shows kids actually behave better (in the car) when they are restrained."
State law requires all front-seat occupants to wear a seat belt and children younger than 5 to be property secured in a child safety seat. Infants up to 20 pounds should be in a reclining, rear-facing infant car seat, which should never be used in the front seat if the vehicle has air bags. For more information about state laws and recommendations regarding child safety, visit www.azgohs.state.az.us/ occupant_safety.html.
To find out whether your car seat is properly installed, or to see if you qualify for a free car seat, call your local police or fire department call or the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety at (602) 255-3216. You can also visit