SEATTLE – As kids return to classrooms and after-school carpools resume, Northwest insurer PEMCO has released poll results that show a vast majority of Washington drivers know the safest spot to place child passengers is the back seat, but less than half think their fellow drivers do that when driving with children under age 13.
While 80 percent of all Washington drivers are aware the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration recommends children under 13 ride in the back seat, just 43 percent say they see other drivers in compliance all or most of the time, according to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll.
Washington is one of 14 states to require by law that children under age 13 sit in the rear of a vehicle "where it is practical to do so," according to the Revised Code of Washington.
"Studies show that frontal crashes are the most common type of car accident. Add that to the threat posed by air bags, which are designed for adult passengers, and there’s no question that the safest place for children is the back seat," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "What this poll tells us is some drivers may be uncertain about when it’s safe to sit up front."
The PEMCO poll showed that Washington drivers with children at home are generally more informed about back seat guidelines, but there’s disparity among all respondents when it comes to their opinions about when children should be allowed to ride in the front seat.
Nearly half of those polled said height should be the key factor, and 21 percent said that weight is most important for determining when a child is ready to move to the front seat. Just one-quarter of respondents said that age should be the primary basis.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), placing children in back instead of the front seat reduces injury risk by 64 percent for infants and kids up to age 8, and by 31 percent for kids ages 9 to 12.
Height and weight are, however, important measurements for deciding when a child is ready to move from a child safety seat to a booster seat, or ride comfortably with just a seat belt.
"It’s important to follow the guidelines from your child-safety-seat manufacturer, but a general rule of thumb is that children under 40 pounds are always better off riding in a car seat," Osterberg added.
As kids outgrow the height and weight requirements of a front-facing car seat, it’s recommended they graduate to a booster seat that allows cross-body seatbelts to fit properly before they’re big enough to sit without any type of safety seat.
PEMCO’s poll found that 43 percent of Washington drivers believe that most parents follow booster-seat guidelines, while another 32 percent believe that only some parents use booster seats to help their child passengers ride correctly.
"If you’re in doubt on the best way to buckle up your kids, the IIHS provides a helpful Q&A, or call the non-emergency line of your local police," said Osterberg.
To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 826 respondents in Washington, yields an accuracy of +/- 3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 3.5 percent.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the region and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.