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Sheriffs launch safety belt enforcement effort in state

Yamhill will join other counties across Oregon for the next 11 days in an effort to encourage more motorists to use safety belts and child restraints, as sheriffs believe they are the most effective way to prevent crash-related injuries and deaths.

“A statewide observation survey in June 2014 found (that) 98 percent of Oregon’s motoring public were routinely using safety belts,” said Yamhill County Sheriff Tim Swenson. “However, ODOT crash data reveals a safety belt use rate of only 62 percent among those killed in crashes last year. Among those killed or injured were 938 child passengers under the age of 8 and a third of these were riding unrestrained or in the wrong type of safety restraint for their size.”

The enforcement effort, which began Monday and will continue through Feb. 22, will also concentrate on the “proper use” of safety belts and child restraints required by state law. In short, the law requires the use of the entire belt system, including a lap belt low across the hips and shoulder belt over the collarbone and crossing the center of the chest. The statute further requires that belts be free of slack and lie flat with no twists or knots; it cannot be worn under the arm for comfort as this can lead to serious injury or death in the advent of a crash.

The law is also specific as to requirements for child restraints. Any child that weighs more than 40 pounds but is less than 8 years old or is shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall must be properly secured with a child safety system that elevates the youth so that a safety belt or harness properly fits the person. Violations for not using or improperly using a safety belt, child safety seat or booster seat could cost as much as $110 per violation.

County sheriffs aren’t the only entities encouraging compliance in the name of safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) adopted new recommendations in 2011 that advise parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight limits of the car seat. Additionally, the AAP advises that children should ride in booster seats until they are a minimum of 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 and 12 years old.

While complying with the law may seem overwhelming for parents, there is help out there. Periodically, the Newberg Fire Department conducts clinics where certified child passenger safety technicians and trained volunteers will check for correct installation, damage, recalls and size and age appropriateness. Those not able to attend a clinic may also make an appointment for a child restraint check by calling 503-537-1230, visiting www.newbergoregon.gov/fire/child-safety-seat-inspections, calling the Child Safety Seat Resource Center at 1-877-793-2608 or visiting www.childsafetyseat.org.

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