Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of children ages 3 to 14 nationwide and in Arizona, according to the Department of Health Services.
In the state, 61 children died in car accidents in 2020, the agency says.
The best way to keep children safe while traveling is often poorly understood: properly installed car seats.
More than half of the car seats in Arizona are not properly installed, according to data from AAA Arizona and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In order to reduce the number of deaths and injuries, Tucson Medical Center is planning to use a recent $25,000 grant from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to continue to promote its child passenger safety education and awareness efforts.
Car seats are 71% effective in reducing the risk of fatal injury for infants and 54% effective for children from ages 1 to 5, according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, or GOHS.
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“People don’t realize the benefits or dangers of not putting a child in a safety seat,” said Alberto Gutier, GOHS director.
Arizona requires rear-facing seats for infants and children under 2 years old, forward-facing seats for children over 2 years old, and booster seats for children ages 5 to 8 who are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall.
The funds will provide 400 to 500 car seats for low-income families who participate in car seat education programs put on by the hospital.
“Most accidents are either frontal or rear end (collisions), so that is the minimum standard that car seats have to pass,” said Jessica Mitchell, program manager with Safe Kids Pima County.
Mitchell works with a network of organizations and the Tucson Police Department to facilitate not only Safe Kids but other programs geared toward protecting children such as Boost Your Booty, GEICO Ride Safe Kids and Children are Priceless Passengers, or CAPP.
While the average cost for a car seat can range from $100 to $150, Mitchell has seen prices range from $40 to $500.
“The cost is not a safety thing,” she said, “because all of the car seats still have to pass the same safety standards.”
The main curriculum of these programs is proper installation and car seat safety, said Tucson Police Officer Danny Peralta, who has been the lead instructor and coordinator for TPD’s child passenger safety programs since 2008.
The police department, in partnership with TMC, works with other law enforcement and fire agencies around Southern Arizona to help educate children and parents on a regular basis, he said.
“(We’re) trying to educate parents instead of forcing a fine and provide seats for parents who cannot afford car seats at all,” Peralta said, “If they get a citation for any car seat violation, they can attend a CAPP class for $35.”