Author Archive

Illinois to require rear-facing until age 2


Illinois has become the latest state to pass a law requiring children to ride rear-facing until they’re 2 years old.

On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB4377, which amends Illinois’ existing child restraint law. Currently, state law requires children to ride in an appropriate child restraint until they are 8 years old. The new law will also require children to remain rear-facing until they are 2 years old unless the child weighs more than 40 pounds or is more than 40 inches tall.

The original version of the bill would have imposed a $75 fine for a first-time offense, but that language was later omitted, leaving penalties to the discretion of local authorities.

The governor’s office has confirmed that the law will go into effect January 1, 2019.

Full text of the amended child restraint law can be found here.

Section 5. The Child Passenger Protection Act is amended by changing Section 4 as follows:

(625 ILCS 25/4) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 1104)

Sec. 4. When any person is transporting a child in this State under the age of 8 years in a non-commercial motor vehicle of the first division, any truck or truck tractor that is equipped with seat safety belts, any other motor vehicle of the second division with a gross vehicle weight rating of 9,000 pounds or less, or a recreational vehicle on the roadways, streets or highways of this State, such person shall be responsible for providing for the protection of such child by properly securing him or her in an appropriate child restraint system. The parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 8 years shall provide a child restraint system to any person who transports his or her child.

When any person is transporting a child in this State who is under the age of 2 years in a motor vehicle of the first division or motor vehicle of the second division weighing 9,000 pounds or less, he or she shall be responsible for properly securing the child in a rear-facing child restraint system, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall.

For purposes of this Section and Section 4b, “child restraint system” means any device which meets the standards of the United States Department of Transportation designed to restrain, seat or position children, which also includes a booster seat.

A child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat of a motor vehicle while wearing only a lap belt if the back seat of the motor vehicle is not equipped with a combination lap and shoulder belt.

Calculating the Cost of Saving Lives


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently released a new version of a tool to help people (legislators, law enforcement officials, advocates, etc.) determine what kind of impact various motor vehicle laws and enforcement practices would have on saving lives, and what the overall cost/savings would be.  The tool is called the Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator for States—but you can call it MV PICCS (pronounced “picks”) for short.

When you first open the calculator, you see a map of the United States with each state color-coded according to its 2015 vehicle death rate. You can then select a state and select various laws/fines/enforcement options that might reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries. You can enter a specific budget, and you can also determine whether to have fees and fines from those interventions rolled back into the cost of implementation.

Then the calculator will show an estimate of how many lives will be saved, how many injuries will be prevented, the cost of enforcement, the fees/fines produced, and the overall cost to the state.

I decided to play around with the calculator a bit. First, I selected my current home: Illinois. Illinois already has a very low vehicle death rate (7.8 per 100,000 people). One thing that really bugs me about Illinois, though, is the lack of a motorcycle helmet law. Of the motorcycles I see on the road, I’d say around 25% have riders with helmets. My small community alone has a few motorcycle deaths each year, and I often wonder how many of those could be prevented with helmets.

So on MV PICCS, I checked the option for motorcycle helmets and the option to use fees and fines to offset costs. I then hit the “run model” button, but I got a message saying that it couldn’t select any interventions given a budget of $0. So I entered a budget of $1,000,000, and it said it couldn’t select any interventions given a budget of $1,000,000.

I decided to keep my $1 million budget, but, in addition to the motorcycle helmet law, I checked “Increased Seat Belt Fine” and “In Person Renewal” (for drivers license renewals of those aged 70 or older). This time it did calculate, and it showed 102 lives saved (42 from helmets, 47 from increased seatbelt fines, and 13 from in-person renewal). The overall cost to the state would be $-3.85 million, meaning the fines and fees would greatly outweigh the implementation costs.

Then I decided to play with Wyoming, the state with the highest vehicle death rate: 24.7 per 100,000 people. For Wyoming, I selected seven interventions (Motorcycle Helmet, License Plate Impoundment, In Person Renewal, Increased Seat Belt Fine, Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law, Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign, and Sobriety Checkpoints.) I also entered a budget of $1,000,000.

MV PICC calculated 40 lives saved and 2,535 injuries prevented. The overall cost to the state would be $840,000.

(It’s also important to remember that laws and driving practices aren’t the only contributors to vehicle deaths. As we’ve reported before, fatality rates are often higher in rural areas, due in part to increased response time for emergency services. States like Wyoming and Montana could certainly reduce their fatality levels with the enforcement of certain laws, but that won’t change issues like terrain and response times.)

While the calculator was kind of interesting to play around with, and while it might provide a decent cost-benefit analysis for some scenarios, I felt like it was a bit too simplistic. I finally figured out that its estimated cost to Illinois to implement a motorcycle helmet law would be $3.5 million. There would be some additional costs in the first year for sure (to update driver’s handbooks, update websites, publicize the law, update law enforcement), but surely the long-term costs wouldn’t be anywhere near that high. It would be nice to see a 5- or 10-year cost estimate.

I also felt the calculator lacked a lot of important options that play huge roles in motor vehicle deaths. There are no options for enhanced child restraint laws or enforcement. There is no option to lower speed limits. There is no option for implementing/enhancing graduated driver’s license programs for teens. And, perhaps most glaringly, there is no option for enhanced laws or enforcement surrounding distracted driving.

The MV PICCS is a decent starting point, but it’s not all-encompassing. Without having a more comprehensive list of interventions and a longer-term view of costs, I’m not sure how useful the calculator will actually be. For finding quick statistics and getting a general overview, though, I can see how it could be a handy tool.

Ford Recalls Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Models Over Faulty Steering Wheel


The Ford Motor Company is recalling 1.3 million Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles because the steering wheel can come loose and can potentially fall off while being driven.

The recall applies to certain Fusion and MKZ vehicles from the 2014-2018 model years:

  • 2014-2017 Ford Fusion vehicles built at the Flat Rock Assembly plant from August 6, 2013 to February 29, 2016
  • 2014-2018 Ford Fusion vehicles built at the Hermosillo Assembly Plant from July 25, 2013 to March 5, 2018
  • 2014-2018 Lincoln MKZ vehicles built at the Hermosillo Assembly Plant from July 25, 2013 to March 5, 2018

The location and date of manufacture can be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door frame.

The cause of the recall is a potentially loose bolt in the steering column. Dealers will replace the existing bolt with a more secure one. According to news reports, the company is aware of at least two collisions and at least one injury resulting from this problem.

Ford’s recall notice can be found here.

Throwback Thursday: Safety Devices of Yore


I was browsing through some old patent drawings from the National Archives (as one does) and I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of them were for safety devices. Since this is a safety-related blog, and since we haven’t done an old-fashioned Throwback Thursday post for a while, I figured I’d share some with you.

Poison Prevention

When a picture of a skull-and-crossbones isn’t enough, this bottle for holding poison comes complete with sharp spikes to deter people from grabbing it unless they really, really need to.

Drowning Prevention

This hat is intended to keep people from drowning, although it might work best if one’s head already happens to be a balloon.

Fire Escape

This intricate system of ropes and pulleys would allow people to be lowered to the ground during a fire. It’s not a bad idea (at least in theory–I’m not entirely clear on how it works), but I love the look on this guy’s face. He’s super nonchalant, like he escapes from fires every day and is getting really bored with it now.

Sports Safety

It’s worth remembering that once upon a time, catchers didn’t wear gear at all, so even though this isn’t as sleek as what catchers of today wear, it’s better than nothing, I guess. Plus, this face-and-chest-protector, which looks like a miniature prison, would probably deter collisions at the plate because I don’t know who’d want to run into that.

Transportation Comfort

Have you seen those hammocks you’re supposed to attach to yourself and to your airplane tray table before putting your baby inside? (Note: CarseatBlog does not recommend using those. Babies belong in car seats on a plane.) Well, this invention reminds me of that…only it’s for adults! And you could use it on so many different kinds of transportation! Just attach part of it to your seat, part to the seat in front of you, then hoist yourself up and go to sleep.

Handsfree Phone

Okay, this isn’t really a safety thing since people in 1882 wouldn’t have been using their phones while driving. But still, I like this early “Bluetooth” idea, even if it’s not completely wireless.

Creepy Baby

This isn’t safety related at all, but I felt like I should include it anyway.

Lest it seem that I’m making fun of any of these ideas (and okay, I am, but just a little), I do recognize that every safety device we have today came from somewhere, usually with roots in the distant past. Ideas and products evolve over time, and I give each of these inventors credit for coming up with solutions to problems of their day, and probably doing a better job than I could have. I sort of hope that 100 years from now, someone will be laughing at how ridiculous our safety products are, because that would mean they’ve gotten a lot better.