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Public can help keep kids safe

Public can help keep kids safe

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It's a familiar scene in cars and trucks: the newborn in its mother's arms, the toddler standing without a safety seat, the child bouncing around with no seat belt while responsible adults drive on, oblivious.



At a glance

Texas law says a child younger than 5 and less than 36 inches tall must ride in a child car seat. Anyone younger than 17 must wear a seat belt, even in the back seat.

Look for "Please Be Seated" postcards at:

• College Station Medical Center

• Brazos Valley Pediatric Dentistry

• Department of Public Safety - Madisonville, Cameron and Bryan offices

• College Station and Bryan public libraries

• Brazos County Courthouse

• Brazos County Health Department

• Law enforcement offices

If you've wanted to do something about kids riding in vehicles without seat belts or car seats, your day has come.

A new program in the Brazos Valley allows people to report motorists violating child safety laws to the Texas Department of Transportation. In response, TxDOT will send the vehicle's owner a letter stating that someone driving the car was seen breaking Texas law by not properly restraining a child in a moving vehicle, officials said.

There are no fees or citations, but the TxDOT package will include information about how to properly use child safety seats and seat belts and a list of local child passenger safety technicians.

The program, Please Be Seated, is sponsored by the Brazos Valley Regional Advisory Council and the Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition, which will provide free pre-addressed postcards with spaces to mark the license plate number, date, time, location of the violation and the violation observed.

TxDOT offers the free program throughout the state to any business or organization that will partner with the agency to provide and distribute postcards, said Rick Moore, chairman of the Brazos Valley Regional Advisory Council.

Moore, who is also the trauma coordinator at College Station Medical Center, said he got the idea from The Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio, which coordinates a similar program with TxDOT.

"It drives me insane to see a kid not properly restrained in a car," Moore said. He and his wife carry cards in their cars to report violators, he said.

Texas law requires all children younger than 5 and less than 36 inches tall to ride in a child car seat and children younger than 17 to wear seat belts, even in the back seat.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Eddie Carmen, a member of the Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition, said not having a child properly buckled in a car increases by 80 percent the chance that the child will be killed in an accident.

"Children don't have a choice when it comes to being restrained, and that's why we're trying to get information out to the parents that they need to make sure those children are restrained because it's the best protection they can have in a car accident," Carmen said.

Please Be Seated postcards will be available at sites across the Brazos Valley, including College Station Medical Center, Brazos Valley Pediatric Dentistry, DPS offices, the Brazos County Health Department and law enforcement offices. The postcards are pre-addressed but unstamped, and should be mailed within 10 days of the offense.

Moore said no fines or citations would be issued, to discourage people from abusing the service.

"We don't want people playing vigilante," he said. "It would be a legal nightmare."

Carmen said most people want to do something when they see kids who aren't buckled up, but don't know what to do.

"I think it will help educate people," he said. "I hope it'll make people think about what they're doing when they don't use a car seat."

• Janet Phelps' e-mail address is janet.phelps@theeagle.com.

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