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Local officers concentrate on kids in seat belt blitz

As part of the Oregon Three Flags Campaign Blitz from Feb. 4-17 to get motorists to buckle up, local police agencies will be promoting the use of seat belts.
   "We're going to be concentrating on kids and proper use of booster seats for kids under 4 foot, 9 inches and 80 pounds," said Sgt. Dennis Schneider, of the Madras Police Department.
   More than a third of children injured in crashes last year were unrestrained, held on laps, or using adult belt systems rather than appropriate child seats.
   Lack of belt use was a major factor in half of Oregon's traffic deaths last year. Excessive speed and driver impairment were the other most common causes of injury crashes.
   Nevertheless, enforcement efforts have paid off. "We rarely see injury accidents now in town, because people are wearing their belts," Schneider said. "You go back 10 to 15 years, people were going to hospitals for cuts and bruises."
   The Three Flags Campaign is a federally funded enforcement program administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation through the Oregon State Sheriff's Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Police Patrol Division.
   Twenty-seven sheriff offices, 63 police departments and OSP Patrol Division are participating in federal overtime grants this year.
   The grants will be used primarily during joint, statewide enforcement saturations or "blitzes" scheduled for February, May and September.
   The February enforcement blitz, which runs Feb. 4 through 17, will focus on educating the public regarding proper adult belt fit, booster seats, and several recent changes to Oregon restraint use laws.
   Consistent safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
   "Proper use" is required by Oregon law and means using the entire belt system, lap belt low across hips, and shoulder belt over collarbone and crossing center of chest. Belts should be free of slack and lying flat with no twists or knots.
   If the shoulder belt portion of your adult safety belt rides up onto your neck or feels uncomfortable, you may increase your comfort by sliding the built-in adjuster up or down or by moving your seat position.
   Do not place your shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back -- this can cause serious internal injuries or ejection in a crash. For help with repair, installation or retrofitting of safety belts, call your vehicle dealer or vehicle manufacturer's customer service department.
   Probably the greatest dangers to unbelted or improperly belted occupants are the significant likelihood and consequences of ejection.
   Unbelted or improperly belted occupants are five times more likely to be ejected in a crash than one who is belted. Odds of surviving ejection from a motor vehicle are estimated at one in four. This is why Oregon law also prohibits minors from riding in an open bed of a pickup truck.
   Changes in the child restraint law went into effect July 1, 2007. A child weighing less than 40 pounds must be restrained in a child safety seat.
   A child under 1 year of age or weighing less than 20 pounds must be restrained in a rear-facing child seat, rear-facing. Children over 40 pounds but under age 8, or less than 4-foot, 9-inches tall must be restrained in a booster seat that elevates them so the lap/shoulder belts fit correctly.
   For help with child safety seats, refer to the seat manufacturer's instructions, vehicle owner's manual or call ACTS Oregon Child Safety Resource Center at 1-800-772-1315.
   While it is not the law in Oregon, it is strongly recommended that children aged 12 and under ride in rear seating positions. Research indicates that such rear seating reduces the risk of injury by 37 percent for that age group.
   Effective Jan. 1, Oregon's safety belt law no longer exempts commercial vehicles which are "designed or used to transport property."
   This broad definition includes all types of trucks, vans, and passenger cars including those that are used for bulk transport, specialized delivery services, or movement of materials in conjunction with various projects or activities.
   Oregon's safety belt enforcement and child passenger safety education programs have reaped impressive success. Since the 1990 passage of an adult belt law, observed belt use among the motoring public has doubled from 50 percent to 95 percent while crash fatality and injury rates have both decreased by 43 percent.
   The average belt use reported by states nationwide is only 81 percent. Estimates of fatality rate reduction nationwide are unknown.