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Taking Holiday Safety on the Road

The Importance of Safe Driving for the Entire Family

Every 45 minutes, someone in the United States will die in a motor vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2008, Kern County lost 103 people to traffic accidents, and 35 of these involved alcohol-impaired drivers. These statistics don't get any better as we begin the holiday season filled with family gatherings, parties, and celebrations that involve alcohol. That's why December is 3D Month: National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. This campaign is aimed to increase awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and to teach Americans that alcohol and drug-related car accidents are 100% preventable.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages that preventative steps be taken not only this holiday season, but year round, to avoid driving under the influence. These steps include designating a sober driver before any drinking begins, taking the keys from friends or family who are drinking, and offering alcohol-free drinks at any parties you may be hosting. It is important to remember, however, that adults are not the only ones at risk for experiencing the dangers of impaired driving. In 2008, one in every six traffic fatalities for children involved an alcohol-impaired driver. What's more, over half of the children who died were riding in the vehicle with the impaired driver. A study published in May 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that as the blood alcohol content of a driver increased, proper child restraint use decreased, which could also contribute to the high rate of child fatalities.

Proper child passenger safety is always important, but even more so at times like the holidays when families tend to travel far and often to visit relatives and friends. Even if the driver in your car is not impaired, the law states that your children be properly secured in the appropriate child restraint. Not only can failing to do this result in a traffic violation, but it puts your child in imminent danger.

There are four stages of child restraints that all parents or caregivers should know and practice with their children. The first stage is rear facing car seats, which babies should be using until they are at least one year old and weigh 20 pounds. The second stage is forward facing car seats, which toddlers should remain in until they are at least four years old and weigh 40 pounds. Booster seats are the third step, which children should stay in until they reach the top weight allowed for the seat or are four feet, nine inches tall. Finally, adult seat belts are appropriate for children who are at least six years old and weigh 60 pounds or more. All children twelve and under, however, should be seated in the back seat. The Kern County Public Health Services Department can assist with proper car seat installation and also offer a low-cost car seat program for those who qualify.

Seatbelts and child restraints are the best way to reduce injuries and fatalities that can result from motor vehicle accidents. However, avoiding impaired driving and keeping those you love from driving under the influence can reduce the chance that these accidents will happen in the first place. For more information about 3D: National Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, visit the CDC's website at For more information about the low-cost car seat program or car-seat installation offered at the Kern County Public Health Services Department, call 868-0306 or go to their website at

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