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Yakima Valley parents slow to buckle up their kids

Although studies show that motor vehicle crashes are the single largest killer of children 4-8 years old, many parents in the Yakima Valley are not using the booster seats that could mean the difference between life and death.

Research conducted between April and August, 2005 in lower income neighborhoods in the Yakima Valley showed that three quarters of the drivers surveyed were Latino. And correct booster seat use was lowest for Latino families, with only 14 percent using them correctly. Other families scored at only 40 percent correct usage.

That data was provided by Carlos Maya of Sunnyside, who is the Latino coordinator for the Booster Seat Safety Campaign in Yakima County.

Maya said the research was conducted in three areas-King County, the Yakima Valley and Portland, Ore.

The Yakima Valley scored lowest of all three.

The rate of proper booster seat protection in the Yakima Valley was highest for 5-year-old (28 percent) and lowest for 8-year-olds (5.7 percent).

That indicated to researchers that many parents allow their children to graduate to adult seat belts too soon.

The research showed that fewer than 21 percent of children 4-8 years old were properly secured in booster seats when they ride in cars. Thirty-four percent of the children were observed to be completely unrestrained, while 45 percent were inadequately protected by an adult seat belt.

Correct booster seat use was 11 percent in the Yakima Valley, compared to 27 percent in King County and 21 percent in Portland.

In the Yakima Valley, it was determined that 46 percent of the children were entirely unprotected.

"These findings are disturbing because we know that booster seats reduce a child's risk of injury by 59 percent compared to using only a seat belt," said Dr. Beth Ebel, associate director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and a University of Washington assistant professor of pediatrics.

"Parents love their children, but many parents aren't protecting their kids from the greatest danger they face," she concluded.

Washington's Child Restraint Law, passed in 2002, was updated earlier this year to require proper child restraint and booster seat use until a child is 8 years old unless the child is 49 inches tall.

The new law becomes effective June 1, 2007. It provides for a penalty of $101 for each improperly buckled child passenger.

Physicians and child-safety experts are urging parents to follow the new guidelines now to give their children the best possible protection in case of a crash.

For more information on booster seats click on www.boosterseat.org or call 1-800-282-5587.

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