Convincing teens and children to wear seat belts isn’t easyPublished 9:30am Sunday, October 21, 2012
Column: Maryanne Law, Families Firstphilosophical
Question:In our extended family we have teenagers and toddlers who are causing us challenges over seat belt use in our cars. We know we need to say “you have to,” but we’d also like some reasonable explanations.
Answer: Seat belt use falls into the parental responsibility of keeping our kids safe and healthy. Small children want to stand and move around, so car seats and seat belts can be a source of struggle and tears. Be sure that very young children are as comfortable as possible; think about a diaper change beforehand and perhaps a screen on the window to cut down on the heat of the sun. Provide a doll to hug or an interesting toy that is never played with anywhere else. Play music that is fun for a child and be prepared to sing some songs that are easy for young children to learn and remember.
As children get older, make the youngest talker the “captain of the car” in terms of seat belt use; give that child the responsibility of asking everyone by name if they are safely “buckled up” before you turn the key in the ignition. The law requires booster seats for children usually starting after turning age 4 until they are age 8 or 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Our families in greater Minnesota are at greater risk for traffic injuries; 80 percent of Minnesota’s traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. Nationally, traffic deaths occur on rural roads at a rate of 2 1/2 times higher than on all other roads.
Of the crash fatalities involving Minnesota 15- to 17-year-olds, half are not belted. The top three teen excuses for not buckling up are that they are not driving very fast, or going very far and that seat belts are uncomfortable — teens say seat belts bug them. Remind your teens regularly that 75 percent of all serious motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of a person’s home and 80 percent of deaths and serious injuries occur in cars that are traveling under 40 miles per hour.
Make sure that your teen can tell you what three impacts happen with every crash:
1. The car slams into the second car or barrier.
2. A body slams into the steering column, the dashboard, the windshield or another body.
2. The brain slams into the skull.
All of those crashes are much more uncomfortable than the seat belt. Seat belt use is now a primary law: police officers will immediately give a ticket if anyone in the car is not buckled up when the car is in motion. Expect a fine of $100. October is enhanced seat belt enforcement month. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org for more information.
Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.