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Implementing Strategies to Keep Child Passengers Safe

Motor vehicle crashes are a major cause of death for children in the United States. Between 2002 and 2011, over 9,000 children age 12 and under died in motor vehicle crashes.3 Despite the proven effectiveness of child safety seats, 1 out of 3 children who died in crashes in the United States in 2011 were not buckled up.1 In the state of Washington between 2010 and 2012, 26 vehicle occupants age 12 and under died in traffic crashes. Of these 26 children, 16 were not seated in a car seat or booster seat and 6 were not buckled at all.2

To combat low child passenger restraint rates and avoid preventable deaths in motor vehicle crashes involving children age 15 and under, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), managed by the Bonney Lake Police Department, developed a comprehensive Child Passenger Safety (CPS) program focused on preventing injuries and deaths.3 The CPS program is guided by the Washington State Strategic Highway Safety Plan, called Target Zero, which sets a goal of 0 deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic collisions by 2030.i The CPS program supports state-wide safety efforts as well as local activities led by Target Zero Managers, SafeKids Coordinators, and other child passenger safety leaders.2 For example, Washington has 20 established Target Zero Task Forces, which focus on the four e’s: education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical services.4 Similarly, there are 16 Safe Kids Coalitions, part of a national initiative that implements evidence-based programs in the community, such as car-seat checkups. In Washington, car-seat checkups are conducted at safety inspection stations managed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) across the state.5

Additionally, WTSC sponsored the “Click It or Ticket”-style Child Car Seat project (CIOT-style CCS), modeled after the “Click It or Ticket” seat belt initiative. In 2010 the project, which was implemented by the Target Zero Program Managers in several counties, involved law enforcement CPS training, over-time patrols, public service announcements through radio and TV ads, messages on road signs, and educational campaigns. Law enforcement training focused on techniques for identifying child restraint violations prior to conducting the thorough, special car seat-focused enforcement patrols.6  Educational activities included using elementary schools as networks to provide information on child passenger safety to students, parents, teachers, and school administrators. 

In 2012–2013 WTSC conducted an evaluation of the CIOT-style CCS initiative in 2 of the participating elementary schools. The results of the evaluation showed that after the CIOT-style CCS program was implemented, the number of kids riding completely unrestrained at those 2 schools dropped by 42%, and the number of kids riding in the front seat illegally was reduced by 29%. In addition, driver seat-belt use overall increased by 4.5%.6

The state of Washington continues to implement a wide variety of strategies, including car-seat inspections, enforcement, and education, to promote child passenger safety and work toward their goal of 0 deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Initiatives like these work to prevent fatal injuries and to achieve the Healthy People 2020 vision, a society where people live long, healthy lives.

2Washington Traffic Safety Commission. 2014 Statewide Estimates of Child Restraint Use Among Elementary Students. August 2014. 
6CIOT-CPS Project Award Nomination
Date Posted:
Organization Name: Bonney Lake Police Department
Program Name: 

“Click it or Ticket” style Child Car Seat project

18421 Veterans Memorial Drive East
Bonney Lake, WA 98391
United States
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 Objective(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 overarching goal addressed: 
Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death.
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