National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said she plans to renew her Certified Passenger Safety Technician status as the federal agency targets improved child and youth safety for passenger vehicles, including a recommendation that all children up to age 8 use child safety seats.
School buses are exempt from the recommendations, an NTSB spokesperson confirmed. But the recommendation to states could still affect millions of students taken to and from school by parents or others.
NTSB launched the year-long program in December during a symposium on “Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles.” The focus is on educating parents and caregivers on ways to keep children safe when traveling. This includes proper use of child safety seats and seat belts. Hersman made her comments about re-certifying herself as a CPST and more on seat belt and safety seat usage during a recent child safety seat check event in Bristow, Va.
“As state legislatures begin their 2011 sessions, the NTSB is calling upon legislators to pass laws that ensure that all children up to 8 years old are using child safety and booster seats,” said Hersman, adding that 19 states still don’t have primary seat belt laws. “Every parent wants their child to be safe, so knowing that trained and knowledgeable CPS technicians are available to make sure that their child safety seats have been installed properly is invaluable to them.”
Estimates are that no more than a couple hundred pupil transporters across the country are registered as CPSTs for school buses, vehicles with seating structures that vary greatly from those in regular passenger vehicles. For example, booster seats that are commonplace in cars and trucks are not advisable for school buses. Specialized training on school bus passenger safety systems is given at state and national pupil transportation conferences, such as the STN EXPO, based on NHTSA-approved curriculum.
The National School Transportation Specifications & Procedures manual that is approved by the National Congress on School Transportation calls for selecting proper vehicles, equipment and child safety restraint systems (CSRSs) for infants, toddlers and preschool children. The specifications also cover the appropriate use of CSRSs (which include child safety seats, safety vests, integrated seats, related securement systems, vest mounting, seat belts, and wheelchair tie-downs) by school bus drivers and monitors.
But for transportation in personal passenger vehicles, Hersman noted that not all states have adequate child passenger safety laws. Florida has the most lenient in child passenger safety laws, as it only requires child safety seats children age 3 years or younger. Arizona, South Dakota, American Samoa and Puerto Rico cover children age 4 years or younger.
Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and South Carolina) mandate child restraints for children age 5 or younger. An additional six states (Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and North Dakota) only cover children age 6 or younger.
NHTSA currently recommends that children approximately age 4 and weighing 40 pounds be secured with booster seats in passenger vehicles until the reach age 8 or reach 4-feet, 9-inches tall. At that point, children should weat seat belts.