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~ Motorists must take responsibility to ensure Florida’s most precious cargo can Arrive Alive ~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This month, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is reminding motorists to focus on child safety on and around Florida roads and ensure all children are correctly buckled into a vehicle, every time. DHSMV is partnering with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Education, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association, and the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) to recognize August 2018 as Child Safety Awareness Month.

“From properly buckling a child into a vehicle, to making sure they safely arrive at their destination, motorists are reminded to keep child safety in mind at every turn,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “DHSMV is committed to serving as a resource for parents, guardians, children and all motorists to increase everyone’s child safety awareness. This August, as children head back to school, we urge all Floridians to join us in protecting our most precious cargo.”

DHSMV’s Division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) offers free car seat installation and safety checks at major FHP troop stations throughout the state. Parents and guardians can call any local FHP office to schedule an appointment with a certified car seat technician.

“It is critically important to ensure the safety of our children in vehicles as they travel our state’s roadways. That means properly restraining children in a vehicle, every time,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “FHP encourages everyone in the vehicle to buckle up, including passengers in the back seat. Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure they are safe.”

Almost 50 percent of child passengers that died in a crash were not wearing any type of restraint in 2017. Preliminarily in 2017, there were 132,366 crashes in Florida involving children under the age of 18, resulting in 1,681 serious bodily injuries and 134 fatalities. Crashes involving children have gone up 14 percent since 2014. Drivers will also be charged with a seat belt violation if any passenger under the age of 18 is not restrained with a seat belt or child restraint device. There were 8,574 citations given for no or improper child restraint device.

Throughout the month of August, the department will be educating the public regarding all aspects of child safety on Florida roads, including: occupant protection and proper seat restraints, safety in and around school zones and school buses and never leaving children in hot cars.

Motorists must never leave a child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle. It is extremely hot, especially in Florida, and leaving a child in a car can result in the child’s injury or death. The inside of a vehicle can heat up by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s and heatstroke in a closed vehicle can occur when the temperature is as low as 57 degrees outside.

“It is up to all of us to take a role in protecting our children, and that is why DCF is working with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles during Child Safety Awareness Month to educate Floridians about the steps each of us can take to make sure the next generation of Floridians are safe and healthy,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll. “We will continue to work with our partners across the state to educate families and bring awareness to this important issue.”

“Every student deserves to arrive safely to school,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “With the school year quickly approaching, it is a great time to remind students, parents, educators, and the public to be diligent about safety, particularly around school buses and in school zones. We are pleased to join the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to promote Child Safety Awareness Month in Florida.”

“Each and every day, police officers protect our state’s youngest visitors and residents,” said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “We encourage adults to make responsible decisions and pay attention to the safety of children traveling by car, bus, bicycle or on foot. Avoiding distractions like texting while driving, exercising caution in school zones, and using proper restraints in vehicles can help keep children safe.”

“The mission of our Florida sheriffs is protecting the citizens that we proudly serve. Accordingly, the foremost goal is the protection of our youth. On behalf of our sheriffs, I fully endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle’s Child Safety Awareness Month campaign,” said Florida Sheriffs Association President, Sheriff Mike Adkinson.

“FCAAP is committed to promoting the safety of children and adolescents in Florida. We are looking forward to continuing to work on common goals with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to protect children from preventable injuries and deaths. We will accomplish this mission together by working collaboratively to raise awareness regarding the use of age appropriate child safety restraints, implementation of safety measures in and around school zones and school buses and prevention of child heatstroke in cars,” said Madeline M. Joseph, MD, and President of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“As families get ready for a new school year, it’s important to be vigilant about safety both inside and outside the car,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “This includes making sure that everyone is safely buckled up and cell phones are put away.”

DHSMV offers additional safety tips for parents and all motorists to keep kids safe in and around vehicles:

  • Children under age four must be in a car seat and, as of January 1, 2015, children age four and five must be in a car seat or booster seat. Drivers will be charged if any passenger under 18 is not properly buckled in.

  • Read the car seat’s instruction manual and the portion of your vehicle’s owner manual when you install a car seat.

  • In passenger vehicles, children under the age of 13 should be secured in the rear seat; airbags can injure or kill young children in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.

  • Be alert and watch for children especially near schools, bus stops, school buses and in school parking lots. Always watch for and obey signals from school crossing guards.

  • Never sit on the roadway or the curb while waiting for the school bus; wait in a safe place away from the road.

  • Children on bicycles can be unpredictable and can make sudden changes in direction. Be especially careful when children are present in school zones and residential areas.

  • Be alert while backing up and designate safe play areas away from vehicles.

Visit the DHSMV’s website for more information and use the hashtag #ChildSafetyFL throughout the month to add and share important child safety information.

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