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Iowa’s strict seat belt laws are not protecting children

Iowa has some of the strictest child passenger safety laws in the country, but research from Harvard University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggests that law enforcement agencies in the state may not be doing enough to enforce these regulations. Researchers from the two universities found that only children in Nebraska are more likely to be killed in motor vehicle accidents than young passengers in the Hawkeye State.

The researchers came to this conclusion after studying 18,116 fatal accidents involving about 18,000 children under the age of 15 using data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The figures reveal that 16 percent of these children lost their lives, but that figure increases to a worryingly 27 percent in Iowa. The study was published online in May by the Journal of Pediatrics.

The purpose of the study was to compare how local traffic safety laws and enforcement practices influence child car accident fatalities, and the researchers came to the conclusion that rigorous enforcement was just as important as having strict laws on the books. The number of children killed on the nation’s roads could be reduced by as much as 40 percent if just one more child out of 10 fastened their safety belt according to the study. In Iowa, passengers under the age of 18 must be properly restrained even if they travel in the back of vehicles.

Seat belt use is often a contentious matter in car accident lawsuits even when injuries are not serious and no lives were lost. The defendants in these cases may argue that plaintiffs who failed to fasten their safety belts or exceeded posted speed limits acted negligently and should be barred from recovering damages. Experienced personal injury attorneys will likely be familiar with this tactic, and they may study police reports and medical records for evidence that they can use to refute these arguments.

Source: The Iowa Department of Public Safety, “A guide to the Iowa Child Restraint Law”, accessed on May 29, 2017

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