What most parents don’t know about automotive safety for children

IMG_0067editedBy Katie Messer

What most parents don’t know about automotive safety for children.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Motor Vehicle Injuries are the leading cause of death and acquired disability for children after age one.

Why does this only happen after age one? When a child is in a rear-facing safety seat, his or her head and spine are not as vulnerable. When the child is facing forward, even in a child safety seat, his or her head and spine are much more vulnerable. This change most often occurs after the child’s first birthday. The head and neck of a child weighs much more proportionally than adults. If a 170-pound adult male’s head and neck was proportional to an 18-month-old child, it would weigh (46 pounds). The child safety seat will restrain a child but does very little to reduce the crash energy.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, toddlers 1 to 4 years of age that are properly installed in a child safety seat are still at a greater risk of death than adults using seat belts and having air bags deployed in a motor vehicle crash.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a properly installed child safety seat reduces the risk of fatal injury by 54 percent for toddlers 1 to 4 years old, in passenger cars. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children aged 4 to 8 years, when compared with seat belt use alone. For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.

According to NHTSA in comparison tests, there was little difference between the expensive and economical child safety seats in the level of safety offered.

Also according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, nearly 250,000 children are injured every year in vehicle accidents in the US, making it the leading cause of death.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of acquired disability (e.g., brain injury, paralysis, etc.) for children nationwide. On any given day nearly 700 children are harmed due to accidents on our roadways (NCSA).

According to the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, except for the recent addition of tethers, child restraint device manufacturers have not kept up the same pace of advanced protection as the vehicle manufacturers (AAAM).

The CDC conducted a study that found in one year, more than 618,000 children, ages 0-12, rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or seat belt at least some of the time. In the United States in 2011, more than 650 children, ages 12 years and younger, died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 148,000 were injured. Of the children who died in a crash in 2011, 33 percent were not buckled up.

Other CDC studies found that child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. One study found that 72 percent of nearly 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.

Restraint use among children often depends upon the driver’s seat belt use. Almost 40 percent of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.

To make sure a child is properly restrained, make sure the child is buckled in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for his or her height and weight.

Know The Stages

Birth to Age 2

Children should be in a rear-facing car seat. For the best possible protection, infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, until the age of 2 or when he or she reaches the upper weight or height limits of the particular car seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.

Age 2 to at least Age 5

Children should be in a forward-facing car seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing car seats, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight of height limit of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.

Age 5 until seat belts fit properly

Children should be placed in a booster seat. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat (by reaching the upper height or weight limit of their seat), they should be buckled in a belt-positioning booster seat until seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt lays across the chest, not the neck. Remember to keep children properly buckled in the back seat for the best possible protection.

Once seat belts fit properly without the use of booster seats, children no longer need to use a booster seat. The recommended height for proper seat belt fit is 57 inches tall. For the best possible protection, keep children properly buckled in the back seat.

Other guidelines and tips for parents and caregivers include:

  • Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the seat’s owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Buckle all children aged 12 and under in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
  • Buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible. It is the safest spot in the vehicle.
  • Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every trip, no matter how short.
  • Set a good example by always using a seat belt.
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