Safe Ride News—30 Years Young!

A Review of 30 Years of the Safe Ride News Newsletter is a Journey Through CPS History

This article originated in the January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, and November/December 2012 issue of Safe Ride News.

SRN 30 year logo

To mark our 30th anniversary, in each of this year’s issues our editor-from-day-one, Deborah Davis Stewart,* will give us a peek at some of the important headlines, news stories, and/or quotes from sequential periods of CPS history.  In this issue, she looks back to the very beginning of the newsletter.  Does some of this look familiar?

From the January/February 2012 newsletter—Early 80’s:

In this issue, we looked back to the very beginning of the newsletter.  Does some of this look familiar?

Flash from the Past—1982

These stories and briefs made headlines in the October 1982 issue of Safe Ride News:

Dorel-Cosco Safe-T-Shield
Dorel-Cosco Safe-T-Shield CR. circa 1980s
  • “Lap Belts for Youngsters: Implications for Counseling and Legislation”
  • “CR Mandate Spreading Nationwide”
  • “Belts Protect Children in School Bus Accidents”
  • “Shortcuts to Safety: Do They Work?”
  • “Comfort and Convenience: The Bottom Line”
  • “Child Care Books Often Neglect Passenger Safety”
  • Dorel-Cosco Safe-T-Shield CR. circa 1980s
  • Remember Loan Programs?
  • “Dr. Kathryn Nichol, a pediatrician from Wisconsin, has been honored as a ‘Woman of the Year’ by the National Safety Council for her successful effort in developing a state car seat loan program especially for toddlers.  Most loan programs handle only infant restraints.”
  • 1982 Reader Query on Booster Seats
    “I know the back seat is safer.  Since I haven’t gotten the anchor plate [tether anchor] for the booster harness installed yet, is it O.K. to use the seat with only a lap belt…?”

How Safe Ride News Came to Be

We’ve come a long way since 1981, when the stage was set for SRN:

  • 1981: FMVSS 213 was upgraded to include a dynamic test requirement for CRs for children up to 40 pounds. Before that time, the standard only required a static pull test.  Parents who wanted to use only CRs that had passed dynamic tests depended on lists published by a few independent consumer safety organizations.
  • 1982: The American Academy of Pediatrics began its “First Ride … A Safe Ride” program, which focused on increasing child passenger safety activity among pediatricians.  Part of that effort was a newsletter, Safe Ride News.  Deborah Davis was hired as its first editor.
    At that time, 18 states had passed CPS laws since the first was enacted in Tennessee in 1977.  Most of the laws covered children up to their fourth birthday.

From the March/April 2012 newsletter—Late 80s:

For a flavor of topics making news in the late ‘80s, here are some snippets from 1986.

  • “CR Laws: Exemptions Affect Many”
    “Gaps and loopholes in state child passenger protection laws put substantial limitations on their effectiveness, according to a 1985 study.  Researchers from Johns Hopkins…and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that about 39% of child motor vehicle occupants killed in the years immediately preceding enactment of the laws would have been exempted from compliance had those laws been in effect.“
  • “Post-Crash Replacement Policies”
    The AAP “has surveyed all safety seat manufacturers and major insurance companies to determine their policies on replacement of seats after use in a crash…Only three of the insurance companies responded.  All three recommended replacement if the seat is damaged.”
  • “FMVSS 213 Revised”
    “The second amendment effectively eliminates the marketing of conventional safety seats requiring a top tether strap to pass the 30 mph crash test standard…A 1983 [misuse] study by Shelness and Jewett…showed only 15% of tethers in use.”

From the May/June 2012 newsletter—Early 90s:

More from SRN’s 30 Years: A Look Back at the First Half of the ‘90s

  • Air Bag Dangers and Incompatibility Dominated These Years
  • Cabs, Hotel Vans in Atlantic City to Carry Car Seats (Fall 1991)
    “A new city ordinance requires taxi cabs to provide child safety seats in Atlantic City, where about 25 percent of newborn babies leave the local medical center in cabs. Cabbies must pay fines and could lose their taxi licenses if they carry young children without car seats.”
  • Washington Collects A Bounty of Seats (Fall 1991)
    “In its second annual summer Bounty Program, the Washington Safety Restraint Coalition collected and crushed 1,800 seats in 1991. People who turned in obviously damaged or pre-1981 car seats received $5 rewards. The drive even turned up some vintage seats that were much too ‘antique’ to crush.”
  • Air Bags and Infants Don’t Mix (Winter 1992)
    “The [NHTSA] issued a warning in December, 1991, about the use of rear-facing safety seats in the front seats of vehicles with passenger-side air bags.  In the 1992 model year, at least 13 vehicles have passenger-side air bags now, six as standard features.  Within a few years many more will be equipped this way.”
  • Editorial: Restraints for Preschoolers on Buses (Spring 1994)
    “Good news! Finally we are seeing the issue of young children riding on buses addressed in various forums and equipment designers are starting to come up with potential solutions. There are many reasons for having special restraints for pre-school-aged youngsters on board buses. Yet the attempt to move restraints from the automobile environment to the school bus is not as simple as it appears.”
  • Blue Ribbon Panel Tackles Incompatibility (Winter 1995)
    “On February 13, 1995, Ricardo Martinez, MD, NHTSA administrator, named a Blue Ribbon Panel of industry leaders and child passenger safety advocates to address incompatibility between vehicles and safety seats. Its formation stemmed from the increased publicity about incompatibility and misuse that has been generated by the DANA Foundation (see Safe Ride News, Fall ‘94) in collaboration with NHTSA. The foundation was formed by the family of Dana Hutchinson, who died in a crash while in her safety seat.”

From the July/August 2012 newsletter—Late 90s:

More From SRN’s First 30 Years:

  • The Watershed Late 1990s
    The late ‘90s were a very active time in CPS.  During this period, state child occupant protection laws were being upgraded, FMVSS 213 was expanded, and the LATCH system was in development.  And how easy it is to forget there was a time before there were child passenger safety technicians, a program that began in 1998.
  • Major NHTSA Changes Underway
    The following tidbits from the Winter 1997/1998 issue, in the middle of this era, provide a fitting snapshot of a CPS field that was in the midst of major changes.  The first entry is the opening paragraph of that issue’s optimistic editorial by Deborah Davis Stewart, followed by some “NHTSA Notes” that heralded significant change, along with an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful CR-vehicle compatibility CD project.
  • Editorial: A CPS Revolution
    “The way 1997 is starting out, it just may turn out to be a watershed year! Despite, and in part due to, all the tragic problems caused by passenger-side air bags affect on young children, the child passenger safety world is full of change. In the midst of tragedy, I see constructive effort.
    This effort stems from a new understanding at many levels of the needs of children.
    While it is premature to say we’ve made real progress, it is time to acknowledge the new energy and work to maintain the momentum.…”
  • NHTSA Notes:
    • ISOFIX Proposal Made
      “A plan for a uniform attachment system for child restraints in vehicles was announced by President Clinton in his radio address on Saturday, February 15th.”
    • Air Bag Regulation Issued
      “The agency issued a rule allowing manufacturers to de-power their air bags, which will diminish the risk to forward facing occupants. It has not yet ruled on allowing disconnection. Vehicle manufacturers prefer the option of installing shut-off switches.” [You’ll find current news on this situation on page 4.]
    • CPS Specialist Training Starts
      “Three 4-day Master Child Passenger Safety Trainer pilot courses will take place in April. Two will be held in the Washington, DC area and a third in Milwaukee, sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association. This training will be the core for a proposed certification plan for child restraint specialists. More on future course sites in the next issue.”
    • CD-Rom for Safety Seat/Vehicle Compatibility
      “The pilot version of the CD-ROM on child safety seat/vehicle compatibility was unveiled in February. It contains 53 vehicle models from 1995-97, with information on installation of most safety seats from the past 10 years. It is still under revision. Stay tuned….” [Editor’s Note: This final product never saw the light of day, due to its complexity and problems with the need for constant updating.  The lessons learned, however, inform NHTSA’s current  proposal for (and industry reaction to) a voluntary CR-vehicle fit program.]
    • The Booster Revolution Begins
      Concern for children ages 5 to 8 was gaining momentum in the late ‘90s, spurred by the campaign of a grieving mother, Autumn Skeen, whose 4-year-old son was ejected from a lap-shoulder belt and killed in a 1996 roll-over crash. He was “correctly restrained” according to Washington state law of the time.  This last item relates to official response to her efforts.
    • Blue Ribbon Panel Addresses Older Children (Winter 1998–99)
      “Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children from age 5–15.… To address these children, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater announced a second Blue Ribbon Panel, “Protecting Our Older Children,” in November 1998.… It is on a fast track to come up with recommendations, … but four [proposals] dealing with stronger restraint use laws have already been announced.”

From the September/October 2012 newsletter—Early 2000s:

  • SRN 2000–2004: A Focus on Protecting Vulnerable Populations
    Here’s a look at stories from the early 2000s. This was a period with many efforts to improve CPS for the most vulnerable segments of the child population, such as preemies, children with special needs, and children over age 4, who were dubbed the “forgotten children” due to the inadequate focus on booster use.
  • The “Forgotten Child” over Age 4:
    • Washington Law Breaks New Ground March/April 2000
      “In Washington state, Autumn Alexander Skeen and SAFE KIDS coalitions led a successful push to upgrade the child passenger safety law. Beginning on July 1, 2002, “Anton’s Law” will require children to be transported in child restraints or booster seats up to 60 pounds or 6 years of age. The current Washington law requires CR use only up through age 2, and safety belt use up to age 16.”
    • Anton’s Law Passes Congress
      November/December 2002
      “Congress has again passed legislation that should improve the safety of child passengers. H.R. 5504 was signed by President George W. Bush in mid-December.
      The new law focuses primarily on improving restraints for children over 40 pounds. It is named Anton’s Law, after Anton Skeen … His mother, Autumn Alexander Skeen, has crusaded for restraint laws for children over 40 pounds.”
    • It will require NHTSA to:
      • Extend safety standards to cover restraints for children over 50 pounds.
      • Develop injury criteria for children over 50 pounds.
      • Develop/certify a 10-year-old dummy.
      • Develop a center-rear lap-shoulder belt requirement, phased in between 2005 and 2008.
      • Study the benefits of built-in CRs.
      • Assess options for children in lap-only seating positions.
      • FMVSS 213 Upgraded
    • July/August 2003
      “In June, NHTSA issued significant amendments to FMVSS 213 that will, when implemented, provide a better basis for evaluating the crashworthiness of CRs. The most immediate change, which will become effective December 22, 2003, will raise the weight limit of CRs to 66 pounds (30 kg). Products between 50 and 66 pounds will be tested with a weighted 6-year-old dummy for structural integrity only.”
    • The Forgotten Child Report
      July/August 2004
      “A comprehensive report on booster seat research and policy, “The Forgotten Child: Children Who Move to Seat Belts Too Soon,” has just been published by Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). … Children from 4 to 8 years of age are most likely to be “sub-optimally restrained” in seat belts. … The report will provide substantive evidence to use in upgrading restraint laws.”
  • Other Populations:
    • Study Reinforces Need for Premie Monitoring in Semi-Reclined CRs
      September/October 2001
      “A new study in PEDIATRICS encourages the routine testing of “minimally preterm” infants (35–36 weeks gestation) in reclined CRs for respiratory instability. It also found that one-quarter of the preterm babies tested could not be positioned correctly in the CR provided by the parents, even with towel rolls…. Twelve percent of the preterm infants [studied] showed … apnea (periods without breathing) or bradycardia (slow heart rate). This confirms the AAP recommendation that all preterm infants need pre-discharge testing in CRs.”
    • Fetal Crash Death Rates High
      January/February 2002
      “A study of death records in 16 states representing 55 percent of live births in this country has shown that motor vehicle crashes resulting in maternal trauma are the leading cause of fetal deaths. Only deaths to fetuses over 20 weeks gestational age were included. The estimates were considered conservative …. In several states, the total number of fetal deaths due to crashes was higher than the total numbers of infant deaths.”
    • National Center Funded for Special Needs Transportation at Riley Hospital
      September/October 2004
      “Riley Hospital’s Automotive Safety Program and Clarian Health Partners are gearing up for a major innovation, a grant-funded national resource center for transportation safety for children with special health care needs. The center will provide information and consultation via a toll-free phone line, a website, and e-mail; conduct training for professionals; update educational materials, and inform the public.”

From the November/December 2012 newsletter—Late 2000s:

Significant CPS Happenings Reported in SRN from 2005 to 2010:


  • First report on entanglement/entrapment of kids in shoulder belts.
  • First Kidz in Motion Conference.
  • Testing of CRs with weighted 6-year-old dummy (65 pounds) begins.


  • Increased concern for appropriate restraint use by kids ages 4 to 8.
    High-weight-harness CRs proliferate.
  • LATCH Working Group forms to address LATCH compatibility and anchor weight limits.


  • NHTSA upgrades its best-practice guidelines for rear facing.  Now states “as long as possible,” with a minimum of 20 pounds and 1 year of age.
  • New national standardized CPS curriculum is released, with requirement of CEUs for recertification, rather than an online test.


  • Study shows benefit of RF up to age 2.
  • First booster belt fit study from IIHS.
  • Regulation now requires lap-shoulder belts for small school buses and higher seatbacks on all buses.


  • More CRs voluntarily tested to NCAP standard.
  • DOT asserts it will develop CR side-impact standard and consumer compatibility recommendations.
  • SuperLATCH (Sunshine Kids) connectors  challenge lower-anchor weight limits.


  • Hope Car Bed introduced (Merritt Mfg.).
  • Ford introduces inflatable shoulder belts in some back seats.
  • Transport Canada’s extensive crash test program results released on website.
  • IIHS study shows no gains in tether use.
  • Updated CPST curriculum issued.