March 19, 2001

Parents feel one of their main obligations in life is to satisfy their children's basic needs, such as proper nutrition, clothing, health and emotional well-being. However, Latin American parents seem to be ignoring their child's safety when they are on the road. Car seats are rarely used to drive children from one place to another, exposing them to the possibility of serious injuries or death in the event of an accident. - the premier Spanish and Portuguese-language Web site for parents - and Graco, the leading international manufacturer of car seats, conducted a survey on car seat usage in Latin America. Survey results do not reflect the reality seen everyday on the regions's streets. Ninety nine percent of respondents believe that the use of car seats should be mandatory by law, while ninety eight percent responded that they use or would consider using a car seat to protect their baby. As far as the most important attributes at the time of choosing a car seat, design, ease of installation and brand received the highest number of votes. Results were based on 1,181 responses from voters all across Latin America.

The results of this survey reveal a parental evolution and appreciation for the advantages of child car seats in the event of an accident. However, unlike the United States and Europe, the laws in the majority of Latin American countries do not require the mandatory use of car seats. In the U.S., the use of car seats is mandatory by law until the age of four or until a child weighs 40 pounds. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 1996 and 1998 there was an increase from 85 to 97 percent in the use of car seats in babies under the age of one and an increase from 60 to 91 percent in children one to four years of age. This is one of the reasons why the number children's deaths has dropped 16 percent since 1996.

There are various international organizations that are promoting the use of car seats in Latin America. One of them is National Safe Kids, based in the United States, whose mission is to prevent unintended injuries in children. "Car seats are not used frequently in Brazil or other Latin American countries," expressed Luciana O'Reilly, executive director of Criança Segura/Safe Kids Brazil. "This is a tragedy, given the violence usually found in car accidents. Hundreds of deaths, injuries, and decapitations could be avoided with the proper use of car seats. There is no excuse for our children to be riding in cars around the city without this security mechanism".

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