Comments on Head Start Child Restraints

Arthur L. Yeager, DMD, MMH

Fellow of the American College of Dentists

33 Park Gate Drive

Edison, NJ 08820

(732) 321-0423

Fax (732) 321-0457

alyeager@aol.com

June 16, 2006

Associate Commissioner, Head Start Bureau

Administration for Children, Youth and Families

Portals, Eighth Floor

1250 Maryland Avenue SW.

Washington, DC 20024

 

 

 

RE: Federal Register: May 30, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 103). Notice of proposed rulemaking authorizing approval of annual waivers, under certain circumstances, from two provisions in the current Head Start transportation regulation (45 CFR part 1310).

 

 

 

These comments have been reviewed and are endorsed by Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of The Center for Auto Safety, Deborah Stewart, Editor/Publisher of Safe Ride News and Arthur Yeager of the Coalition for School Bus Safety.  These three individuals have a combined experience of nearly 100 years in automotive safety.

Commentators complement the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services for the progressive action the Administration has taken in the directing that children being transported to Head Start and Early Head Start programs be seated in an appropriate child restraint system with at least one monitor on board to ensure proper and continued utilization of the restraints during the trip.

Automotive child restraints have long been recognized for their life saving and injury attenuating capacity. Study after study has confirmed their efficacy.  Most recently Elliot et al. report that children of Head Start and Early Head Start age when seated in properly used child restraint systems were 28% less likely to die in car accidents as compared to those wearing seat belts alone[1]. In recognition of the importance of child restraint use, currently all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws requiring the use of child restraints in motor vehicles.

According to the above referenced notice, annual waivers could be granted from the requirement that each child be seated in a child restraint system and the that each bus have at least one bus monitor on board at all times if the Head Start or Early Head Start program demonstrates that compliance with the requirement(s):

1.  Will result in a significant disruption to the Head Start program or the Early Head Start program, and

2.  that waiving the requirement(s) is in the best interest of the children involved, and

 

 

3. when adherence to a requirement of this part would itself create a safety hazard.

 

 

 

In addition the Administration for Children and Families goes on to qualify by stating that, Under no circumstance will the cost of complying with one or more of the specific requirements of this part constitute good cause.

 

Based on their long experience in automotive safety, commentators are unaware of any circumstance whereby the best interest of a group of Head Start or Early Head Start aged children could be served by transport unrestrained in a motor vehicle or that the monitored use of child restraints by Head Start or Early Head Start aged children would itself create a safety hazard.  In fact, countless studies have irrefutably documented the very opposite. All fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico agree that child restraint use is in children's best interest and it is not a safety hazard for Head Start or Early Head Start aged children to ride in child restraints. 

 

 

 

Conversation with an Administration for Children and Families representative has revealed that of the approximately 2000 Head Start or Early Head Start programs transporting children, 90% are currently in compliance.  Only about 200 have waivers. Obviously, if nine out of ten programs can successfully implement child restraint usage, it is most difficult to understand how the remaining few could find “significant disruption of their programs when most others have been able to so accomplish.

 

 

 

Commentators understand the Administration for Children and Families concern regarding the requirement that each bus have at least one monitor, irrespective of how few Head Start or Early Head Start children might be on the vehicle. Concern is expressed by the Administration for Children and Families that when an entity other than a grantee is operating the bus, such as when as a courtesy by a school district, a few (the notice suggests three) Head Start or Early Head Start children ride a school bus on its regular school run and are dropped off at the facility and then returned home.

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, commentators are concerned that the Administration for Children and Families fails to establish definitive parameters as to what is meant by few. Commentators suggest that criteria be established based on a reasonable estimate of the ability of a driver to conveniently, safely, and properly place and then effectively monitor the Head Start or Early Head Start children at inception and during their trip. For Administration for Children and Families consideration, it is suggested that a driver can supervise only the area immediately proximate.  Therefore we suggest that a waiver of the monitor requirement be granted only when the number Head Start or Early Head Start children transported is limited to the number of children capable of being seated in the first row of the vehicle in properly installed child restraints. Further, all seats reserved for Head Start or Early Head Start children must be equipped with seat belts or other approved devices so as to be compatible with child restraint usage.

In conclusion, commentators compliment the Administration for Children and Families for their positive actions regarding the transportation of Head Start or Early Head Start children.  Recognizing the significant, demonstrated safety features of child restraints for Head Start or Early Head Start children concern is expressed regarding annual waivers.  It is further suggested that waiver of monitor requirement be implemented only when it can be demonstrated that the vehicle's driver alone can properly implement child restraint use by the Head Start or Early Head Start children.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Clarence Ditlow

Executive Director, Center for Auto Safety

1825 Connecticut Ave, NW
Suite 330
Washington, DC 20009-5708

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah Stewart

Editor/Publisher, Safe Ride News

Safe Ride News Publications
14604 Ninth Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA  98155

 

 

 

Arthur Yeager

Coalition for School Bus Safety

33 Park Gate Drive

Edison, NJ 08820  

 

[1] Michael R. Elliott, PhD; Michael J. Kallan, MS; Dennis R. Durbin, MD, MSCE; Flaura K. Winston, MD, PhD, Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats vs Seat Belts in Reducing Risk for Death in Children in Passenger Vehicle Crashes, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:617-621.