Letter: Occupant restraints RCMP focus for October

For the month of October, the Morinville RCMP and its law enforcement partners will be paying close attention to the use of seatbelts and child restraints for the motoring public.

Some key messages in relation to occupant restraints are as follows:

· Seatbelts do save lives.
· This is about a simple action that could make the difference between life and death.
· Buckle up in all seats of the vehicle.
· If you do not buckle up – you become a deadly weapon to others in the vehicle.
· It takes seconds to buckle up and a lifetime to make up for a loss.
· You can drive without wearing one, but you might not be here to drive again.
· Seatbelts are the single most cost-effective life-saving device we have to protect us in a motor vehicle collision.

Some key facts about occupant restraints are as follows:

· In Alberta, wearing a seatbelt is required by law.
· In Alberta, the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $155. Drivers are also responsible for the proper restraint of children under 16.
· Occupants using a restraint reduce the likelihood of sustaining an injury and the severity of injury decreases.
· Seatbelts save about 1000 lives per year in Canada.
· Seat belts distribute the force of a collision evenly to the stronger parts of a person’s body. In a crash, a vehicle traveling 50 kilometres per hour comes to an abrupt stop in 1/100th of a second. At 50 kilometres per hour, an unrestrained person, weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds), will strike whatever they hit first with a force of 2,785 kilograms (6,215 pounds).
· Airbags only function properly if the occupant is restrained in a proper position by a seatbelt. Airbags deploy at an explosive speed and can cause injury if the occupant is not properly positioned. Airbags are a supplemental device.
· Vehicles are designed with an engineered life space, which can withstand the force of most impacts. Seatbelts keep occupants in this space where they are safest.
· In a collision, one unrestrained occupant increases the risk for all occupants in the vehicle. An unrestrained occupant may hit something or someone inside the vehicle; or they may be thrown from their vehicle into another object.
· Child safety restraints are required by law for children under the age of 6 who weigh less than 18 kilograms (40 pounds).
· A child under 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and one year of age is safest in a rear facing child restraint. Be sure to consult the owner’s manual for guidelines.
· Forward-facing child restraints should have shoulder straps that originate at or above the shoulders.
· Booster seats are recommended for children under the age of 9, 18 to 36 kilograms (80 pounds) or 145 centimeters (58 inches).
· Without a booster seat, a child is four times more likely to suffer a significant injury.
· Children under the age of 12 are safest in the back seat of a vehicle in proper restraints based on their age, height and weight.

Some frequently asked questions are as follows:

I am a good driver. Do I still need to wear a seatbelt, even for a short distance?

You cannot control everyone else’s behaviour on the road. Seatbelts dramatically increase.

Your chances of survival in a collision, regardless of who is driving the other vehicle.

What is the proper position of a seatbelt? What if the seatbelt is uncomfortable?

The second-hand should be positioned securely across the hip bones and across the shoulder.

A properly positioned seatbelt should not be uncomfortable. Never put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back. In a collision, this could cause fatal injuries.

What if there are more people in a vehicle than seatbelts?

A driver cannot transport more people in a vehicle than there are seatbelts. Sharing seatbelts is dangerous as occupants will hit each other during a collision increasing the likelihood of injury.

When is it time to place children in a forward-facing child restraint?

Always follow the weight and height guidelines in the manufacturer’s instructions. Even if a child’s feet are touching the back of the vehicle seat in a rear facing restraint, it does not mean they should be moved to a forward facing seat. Infants should remain rear facing until one year of age, 10 kilograms (22 pounds and walking).

Can a child restraint that has been used in a collision continue to be used?

No, this is not recommended. While the child restraint may appear to be fine, there could be microscopic cracks in the shell, weakened areas in the harness or seat frame and the restraint would not hold together in a subsequent collision.

Can a second-hand child restraint seat be used?

Although it is not recommended, a second-hand car seat can be used. Check the expiry date for the seat, ensure that it has not been used in a collision and that all parts are present and are in good condition.

Why should parents ensure their children are properly secured in booster seats?

Booster seats position the seatbelt over the strongest bones in the child’s body. It helps position the lap belt across the bones of the hips, not across the soft abdomen. It also places the shoulder belt across the chest, preventing the upper body and head from moving forward during a collision.

What about using an aftermarket seatbelt adjuster?

The use of aftermarket seatbelt adjusters for adults or for children, are not recommended as they are not government regulated.

Should pregnant women wear a seatbelt?

Yes, seatbelts are the best protection for both mother and unborn child. Pregnant women should sit as upright as possible with the shoulder belt across their chest above the belly, and the lap belt low so that it pulls downward on their pelvic bones and not on their abdomen.

Law enforcement throughout Morinville RCMP’s jurisdiction will be conducting roving patrols and check stops to be on the lookout for occupant restraint infractions.

The public is to be aware that tickets will be issued for offenders.

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