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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

For starters

A local resident was an early advocate of child safety seats in vehicles.

January 31, 2007

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Child safety seats in motor vehicles frequently have been in the news recently, primarily because of erroneous information circulated about the devices in the much-trusted Consumer Reports publication.

The magazine, which focuses on the merits and drawbacks of various products, reported that 10 out of 12 child safety seats "disastrously" failed in tests that simulated 38 mph crashes. It turns out the data was faulty because the test involved simulated 70 mph crashes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration checked the data it had, saw flaws and asked Consumer Reports to redo its study.

Oops! The magazine noted for its good and accurate information for the public benefit had unnecessarily alarmed adults about dangers to children. Immediate admission was made of the mix-up and new data is sure to be provided as soon as reasonably possible.

All well and good. At any speed there is a risk of tragic consequences for a child not secured in a properly installed restraint device. While there was an understandable period of needless concern, the point again was made about the need for child safety seats in vehicles - a practice that received great emphasis early on in Kansas because of a Lawrence state legislator, Jessie Branson.

As a member of the Kansas House of Representatives some 25 years ago, Branson was indefatigable in her efforts to get approval for laws requiring restraints for youngsters. The dedicated Lawrence woman was sometimes derided and ridiculed as "alarmist" by some observers, including some fellow legislators. But she saw the need for the devices and never let up, causing a number of agencies such as Lawrence Memorial Hospital to provide rental seats for people who could not buy them.

Branson's efforts and successes spread throughout the region and to other states. Consider the depth and breadth of child restraint use now and the legal structures that force their proper usage. It is no mystery why many were disturbed when information surfaced that many safety seats are faulty.

The errors in this case are being corrected, many can breathe easier about the safety seats they are using and proper emphasis again is on their use in vehicles. Underlying this important issue is that Jessie Branson years ago was one of the leaders in getting proper laws and sound equipment to protect children.

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