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NTSB Forum on Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles - Chairman's Opening and Closing remarks, Washington, DC
Deborah A. P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Forum on Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles - Chairman's Opening and Closing remarks, Washington, DC

On behalf of my fellow Board members, I thank the speakers for their participation in our forum and their commitment to child safety. The discussion today has been excellent.

Undertakings of this scope do not simply happen – they are the end product of many months of long hours and meticulous preparation and planning. I would like to recognize the NTSB staff who planned this event – our co-managers, Elisa Braver and Jana Price, and the over two dozen staff from throughout the agency. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to child safety.

For some, it may seem that we at the Safety Board are a "glass half-empty" agency – that for us, there is no such thing as good enough. And I think that is a label we should be proud of. There is always more that we can – and should – do when it comes to making transportation safer.

It was in December, 6 years ago, that I took a course to become a certified child passenger safety technician. Unfortunately after my second day in the class I realized that I needed to re-install all of the car seats in our family cars. My husband and I are both college-educated and well-intentioned parents. It should not require a 4-day course to learn how to properly install a car seat. To that end, child restraint manufacturers, automakers and aircraft seat designers need to work together to make child safety seats more compatible with vehicles and aircraft, and the installation of them more intuitive.

Education can improve use rates, but it has to be carefully designed and we have to be realistic about what it can achieve. To be effective, education cannot be a one-shot deal. For example, we can't do a public service announcement and assume that everybody has received the message. We can't put up a website and assume that people will visit it.

We need to tap into all sources of education - pediatricians, mass media, as well as industry and public service organizations, since thousands of babies are born each day in the United States. Some of the best ways to get out the message are programs that deal not only with perceptions, but address barriers that get in the way of people doing the right thing, every time.

We need vigorous enforcement of child seat laws in vehicles, particularly since we know these laws improve child seat use rates and influence behavior. NHTSA has done an impressive job of implementing and then evaluating child safety interventions. We encourage the FAA to be similarly proactive, to take a look at what NHTSA has done, consider what the speakers have said today and make educating parents about child safety a high priority. Safety for our smallest travelers should not be considered optional or a luxury.

This concludes our forum. We stand adjourned.