Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in America, according to a 2018 study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, accounting for 20 percent of the country’s youth fatalities. With these statistics in mind, the St. Helens Police Department (SHPD) is joining law enforcement agencies across Oregon to use federally funded overtime to conduct a saturated patrol from August 5 to September 1 to increase St. Helens road safety and educate the public about safety belt and child seat laws.
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), proper car seat use can reduce the risk of fatal injury in infants by 71 percent, and for toddlers in passenger cars, the risk of fatal injury drops by 54 percent.
2017 crash data collected by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Safety Division, indicated a lack of proper safety belt or child restraining use was a factor in 22 percent of motor vehicle occupant fatalities. In the same year, 1,898 children under the age of 12 were injured in Oregon traffic crashes.
In April of 2017, the State of Oregon passed House Bill 3404 requiring children to ride in a rear-facing safety seat until they are at least two years old, regardless of the child’s weight. In addition, a child weighing 40 pounds or less, “must be properly secured with a child safety system that meets the minimum standards” as outlined under ORS 815.055.
“The recent law better protects a child’s head, neck and spine from potential crash injuries,” the SHPD said in a press release. “This is because a rear-facing seat spreads crash forces evenly across the seat and child’s body while also limiting forward or sideways motion of the head.”
ODOT will provide the additional funding for the SHPD to take part in the saturated patrol, which will focus on increased road safety around the clock through the enforcement of safety belt and child restraint use, distracted driving rules such as texting and cell phone use and obeying the speed limit.
The SHPD will also be partnering with the Oregon State Police during the 2019 “Hood to Coast” and “Portland to Coast” relay races the weekend of August 23. During the race weekend, officers will focus on the “FATAL 5” – DUIIs, distracted driving, speed, occupant safety and lane safety.
The SHPD said saturated patrols during the race weekend will focus on keeping people safe with the large influx of vehicles on Columbia County’s highways that have historically brought higher rates of the “FATAL 5” in the past, including fatigued drivers and road rage incidents.
“There will be zero tolerance for violations encountered during blitz periods,” SHPD Sgt. Jose Castilleja said. “St. Helens officers will be on the lookout for drivers in non-compliance with the law. We want to help prevent children and adults from being injured in circumstances that are easily avoidable.”
Castilleja added an additional reminder to St. Helens citizens to wear your seatbelt and place your children in a proper safety seat, don’t use your mobile devices while driving, and be aware of the speed limit - especially near school zones now that school will be starting up again.