The V.I. Office of Highway Safety is sounding the alarm for child passenger safety in the territory following a daylong initiative last month that revealed at least 89 percent of motorists on St. Thomas were flagged for errors in child safety seatbelt use.
On St. Croix, 80 percent of motorists were found with “misuse errors,” according to a Highway Safety news release
The child safety check was conducted on Feb. 11 in partnership with the V.I. Police Department’s traffic safety officers and certified child passenger safety technicians and the “data generated from the initiative sounded an alarm for child passenger safety in the territory,” the release stated.
“As a result of this free initiative, misuse errors were identified and addressed in 80% of the seats checked on St. Thomas and 89% of those checked on St. Croix,” the release stated, adding that on the U.S. mainlaind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said seat check error rates average 46%.
“These installation and usage errors commonly made by well-intentioned caregivers can cause injury to child crash victims,” Daphne O’Neal, Office of Highway Safety director said.“Even the best safety seat on the market will not keep your child safe if it is not used correctly. It would behoove caregivers to take full advantage of this no-cost, life-saving service.”
According to the statement, child passenger safety technicians year-round “assist caregivers with determining the right seat for their child’s development and empowers caregivers with the skills needed to install their seat safely.”
During the daylong event, held just before Valentine’s Day, V.I. Police traffic officers “stopped motorists, who were observed with child passengers riding at-risk to provide education on child passengers safety laws and advise the steps needed to safeguard their children.”
Citations were also issued to encourage compliance and to hasten corrective actions, according to the statement.
The enforcement will continue, according to V.I. Police Commissioner Ray A. Martinez.
“Our children rely on their caregivers to keep them safe,” he said. “Our officers will continue to conduct enforcement activities to support parents in doing right by the children in their care.”
In accordance with V.I. law, all children under age 14 are required to ride appropriately secured in the back seat. Children under age 8 are required to sit secured in an appropriate car or booster seat, the release sated.