Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in American children 17 years old and younger. In 2009, the CDC reported that 1,314 deaths occurred in children 14 and under as a result of motor vehicle accidents, and 179,000 were injured.
Children don’t need to be injured or die this way.
According to the CDC, the most important risk factors for these deaths include:
- More than two-thirds of fatally injured children were killed while riding with a drinking driver.
- Restraint use among young children often depends upon the driver’s seat belt use. Almost 40% of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.
- Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. One study found that 72% 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.
A new study, published this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, found that:
46 percent of children who died in car crashes had no restraints at all (no car seat, booster seat or seat belt).
The emphasis is mine. Because that one sentence absolutely stuns me. The one thing that parents can do to reduce the risk of their children dying in a car accident is properly restraining them. And in nearly half of these crashes, that didn’t happen.
A common question parents ask is: “When can I turn my child’s car seat around so they face the front?” The answer is: “Two years old” and here is the reason why:
The authors noted one study found that significant injury to children was about 76 percent more likely in children seated in forward-facing car seats than in rear-facing car seats.
A rear-facing car seat is estimated to be about 93 percent effective in preventing injury to a child in a crash. A forward-facing car seat is estimated to be 78 percent effective.
The longer a child can remain rear-facing, therefore, the greater amount of protection that child is receiving, the authors noted.
In side crashes, the risk of injury in forward-facing car seats was about five and a half times greater than in rear-facing car seats.
Here are the current Child Passenger Safety Guidelines, courtesy of the CDC:
- Use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short. This sets a good example.
- Make sure children are properly buckled up in a seat belt, booster seat, or car seat, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight.Know the stages:
- Birth through Age 2 – Rear-facing child safety seat. For the best possible protection, infants and children should be kept in a rear-facing child safety seat, in the back seat buckled with the seat’s harness, until they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat. The weight and height limits on rear-facing child safety seats can accommodate most children through age 2, check the seat’s owner’s manual for details.
- Between Ages 2-4/Until 40 lbs – Forward-facing child safety seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (the weight and height limits on rear-facing car seats can accommodate most children through age 2) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat buckled with the seat’s harness, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds; many newer seats have higher weight limits-check the seat’s owner’s manual for details).
- Between Ages 4-8 OR Until 4’9″ Tall – Booster seat. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (by reaching the upper height and weight limits of their seat), they should ride in belt positioning booster seats. Remember to keep children in the back seat for the best possible protection.
- After Age 8 AND/OR 4’9″ Tall – Seat belts. Children should use booster seats until adult seat belts fit them properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (not the neck). When adult seat belts fit children properly they can use the adult seat belts without booster seats. For the best possible protection keep children in the back seat and use lap-and-shoulder belts.
- All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an air bag.
- Place children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.