The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


August 28, 2005

Kids have proper place in vehicles, officials say

By Tippi Rasp Staff Writer

On July 23, 1995, Pete Norwood had been an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper less than two months and still in the probationary period of his new job.

But he remembers the events of the night like it was yesterday. In his mind, the event signaled the beginning of his career.

"It was a day I'll never forget," Norwood said recalling the first child fatality traffic crash he ever worked.

Kevin Pruitt Jr., 18 months, was killed when the pickup he was riding in left a county road near the Garfield and Grant county line and struck an embankment. The boy was strapped into a car seat, but the seat was unsecured in the bed of the pickup. An 18-year-old woman, Tina McGowan, also was killed.

Norwood, recently promoted to lieutenant and now a public information officer at headquarters in Oklahoma City, said the child died that night 10 years ago "simply because of negligence." Alcohol was involved, and the man driving the pickup was convicted of two counts of negligent homicide. McGowan's one-year-old child also was in a car seat in the bed of the pickup but was not hurt in the wreck.

But Norwood has seen children come away unhurt from serious accidents because they were properly restrained. Child safety seats reduce injury by 71 percent for infants less than age 1 and by 54 percent for toddlers between 1 and 6 years old, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"I've seen firsthand they work," Norwood said.

But children don't make the decision about whether or not they ride in a car seat, he said. Parents do.

"Please do not drive without that child in a seat," Norwood said. "Don't risk a child's life."

It's not just a parent's responsibility to make sure a child is properly restrained it's the law. Norwood said Oklahoma Highway Patrol's fine for failure to properly restrain a child is $32, and the citation is mandatory. There is no warning.

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