Buckle Up This Thanksgiving Weekend - Southern Maryland Headline News

Buckle Up This Thanksgiving Weekend

Up To 567 Highway Fatalities Projected Nationally During Busy Thanksgiving Weekend

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for people of every age from 4 to 33, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projects that as many as 567 highway fatalities could occur nationwide during the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A new study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia/State Farm Insurance Company's Partners for Child Passenger Safety Project reveals that many of these crashes will happen close to home, so whether you are traveling across country or just around town - buckle up! The Maryland State Highway Administration's Highway Safety Office, Safe Kids Maryland, and local partners including law enforcement, Board of County Commissioners for St. Mary's County, other elected officials and traffic safety advocates offer tips for traveling safely-whether near or far from home-during this busy holiday season.

New data provided by the Partners for Child Passenger Safety Project (PCPS) underscores the importance of buckling everyone up regardless of the length of the trip. The report was culled from a database containing information on more than 377,000 crashes involving more than 557,000 children from birth through age 15 years, and provides startling data for typical crashes involving child passengers. For example:

* Eighty percent of the crashes took place 20 minutes or less from home,

* Nearly three out of four crashes (73 percent) happen between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.,

* More than half of crashes occur at speeds less than 45 MPH, and

* 35 percent of crashes took place at an intersection.

In order to help everyone stay safe on the roads this holiday weekend, St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police-Leonardtown Barrack, NDW Police - Patuxent River, and Department of Natural Resources Police are joining law enforcement officials throughout Maryland this Thanksgiving to remind all holiday travelers to buckle up on every ride. "Whether traveling three states away to Grandma's house or just down to the store to pick up extra cranberry sauce, it's important for everyone to buckle up on every ride," said Sheriff David Zylak. "That's why law enforcement throughout the state will be out in force over Thanksgiving with a strong Click It or Ticket message-to help save lives on our highways."

Although a record 91% of Marylanders and 95% of St. Mary's County residents now wear their safety belts while riding or driving in vehicles, up from 89 percent in 2004, too many people still do not. More than 460 passengers died in crashes during 2004 - and more than half of those killed were NOT wearing their safety belts at the time of the crash. Drivers and occupants of pickup trucks tend to buckle up less than the general population at only 84% of the time. "Because law enforcement officers have seen first-hand the severe injury and death that can result from not using a safety belt or a child safety seat, they will be showing zero tolerance for anyone not buckled up this Thanksgiving weekend," said Lt. Brian Cedar, MSP Leonardtown Barrack Commander. "We want everyone on the road to reach their destination safely this holiday season, so please-Click It or Ticket."

Thanksgiving is also a good time to remember that children must always be properly restrained in moving vehicles. Although 99% of all American infants - younger than age one - are now restrained, many older children tend to be placed in adult seat belts too early. When booster se ats are used, eight out of 10 child restraints are improperly installed. To assist families with selecting the appropriate type of restraint for each member of the family, the Safe Kids Maryland Coalition and St. Mary's County Highway Safety Program - Community Services Division offer the following tips:

The 4 Steps for Kids are:

1. REAR-FACING INFANT SEATS in the back seat from birth to at least one year old, and until they outgrow the rear-facing convertible seat, usually around 30-35 pounds.

2. FORWARD-FACING TODDLER SEATS in the back seat after the rear-facing convertible seat is outgrown, to about 40 pounds, usually around age four.

3. BOOSTER SEATS in the back seat from about age four and 40 pounds to at least age eight, unless 4'9".

4. SAFETY BELTS at age eight or older or taller than 4'9". All children 12 and younger should ride in the back seat.

For more information about child passenger safety, go to http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov, http://www.mdkiss.org. or visit http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/recreate/ocs/index.asp.

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