Since retiring as a District Fire Chief at East Lake Fire Rescue in Pinellas County FL and moving to Tennessee I have found some things in Tennessee very encouraging in the area of child passenger safety. (Tennessee is a Primary Enforcement State).
Billboards tout the message that 4’ 9” is the magic number and children under that height need to be in a booster seat.
Even many empty billboards have the message printed “Buckle Up” on them. TV Commercials also are frequently telling drivers that children need to be in safety seats and booster seats.
The state of Tennessee is also hitting hard with the message against Drunk Driving. In the county I live in (Sevier) I can attest that the alcohol laws are strictly enforced. I am 57 years old and got carded the other day when I bought a 6 pack of beer. The message is clear and that’s the good thing. You’d think that with all that media information there would be a great compliance in vehicle safety…but some things don’t change.
Just like in Florida I have observed many cars with children riding unrestrained. Almost every day I read in the newspaper or hear on TV news broadcasts about fatal vehicle crashes where the occupant(s) were ejected because they were not wearing their seat belts.
So now I must consider that the state of Tennessee is just reacting to the actions or rather the failure to act (buckling up or making sure their children are safety secured in safety seats or booster seats) to reduce the carnage on the road and protect the future generations from the ignorance of their parents. Even with that said, the messages are needed, not just in Tennessee but in every state. The messages need to be frequent and multi-media delivered. News media needs to emphasize why these people are being seriously injured and killed and how just a simple act of prevention can be worth that proverbial pound of cure.
Now I work in a Hospital Emergency Room as an RN and just as in every ER in any state we see the errors people make and the results these errors produce both to them and to the innocent other people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope the Buckle-Up America campaign gets a needed revitalization and is adopted and encouraged by all states and local public service agencies (Police, Fire and EMS agencies). Education is a key component and positive media messages are what back up the education on a daily basis.
Bill Walker, RN
Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor