New York, Portland among safest cities for kids

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Families in New York and Louisville, Kentucky might be relieved to know they live in two of the safest U.S. cities for children.

Girls play on the runway before the Preen by Thornton Bregazzi Fall 2009 collection during New York Fashion Week in New York, February 15, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Both urban areas scored high marks in a study that assessed 50 of the largest U.S. cities on 25 safety criteria such as proximity of hospitals, bike helmet laws and how quickly local fire departments respond to determine the safest for children.

“It’s clear that most cities are doing great things to improve safety at home and in the community,” said Gus Schaefer of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent safety certification provider that commissioned the research.

New York firefighters were the quickest to respond to emergencies, while Louisville pedestrians were among the least likely to be in a traffic accident, according to the study.

Boston parents can sleep easy knowing they live in the city with the most hospitals per capita and Portland, Oregon got kudos for its low drowning rates and air quality.

Virginia Beach scored high marks because car passengers under the age of 18 have to wear seatbelts, even if they are riding in the back seat.

Columbus, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa were also among the safest cities.

Although the study did not rank the cities, it showed that the vast majority have anti-smoking laws and all have smoke alarm legislation.

One area where there might still be room for improvement is bike helmet laws. Only 39 of the largest urban areas have bike helmet laws on the books.

But 47 out of 50 cities had some non-smoking legislation and an equal number required carbon monoxide alarms. And all the cities insisted on inspections after construction or remodeling projects.

In addition to local and state laws to keep their children safe, UL said families can also take measures to improve the safety of their children, including making sure television stands are well anchored and having a fire escape plan.

Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Patricia Reaney