The Latino population in the United States has increased dramatically since 1990. Currently, Latinos make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but that is expected to rise to 24 percent by 2050. As the Latino population increases, there are public safety concerns about motor vehicle accident rates, seat belt use and fatality rates among this population.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, seat belt use among the Latino community is low, and it is not expected to increase along with the population. This is extremely concerning given the motor vehicle accident rates among the Latino community. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among Latinos 1-34 years old.
As alarming as that is, consider that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death and acquired disability among Latino children. In fact, Latino children are up to 60 percent more likely to die in an accident than their non-Latino peers. Why? AAA believes it is largely due to inadequate or improper seat belt use. Consider the following about Latino seat belt use:
· 71% of children five and under are properly restrained in a car or booster seat.
· 35% of six year olds are properly restrained in a car or booster seat.
· 11.5% of eight year olds are properly restrained in a booster seat.
This suggests that a majority of Latino children are moved from an infant car seat directly to a regular seat belt. Skipping the crucial steps between an infant seat and an adult seat belt places small children at risk for injury or death if an accident occurs. Researchers believe that the increased risk of injury, disability or death among Latino children is most likely due to inappropriate restraint based on the child’s age and size.