Precious Cargo: Children and Car Crashes

Author: Scott Fitzgerald, Law Clerk

The leading cause of death for children between the ages of 2 and  15 in the United States is car crashes.[1] In 2005 alone, 1,451 children under the age of 15 perished in motor vehicle accidents, while 184,000 more sustained injuries.  Each day, about  500 children are injured in car crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, over half of children killed in car crashes were not wearing a seat belt or any other type of restraining device.[2] Only 10% of children under age five travel without a seat belt, but they account for more than half of child deaths in car crashes.[3]

Even when children are restrained, studies indicate that up to 75% of child seats are improperly installed.  The Automobile Association in Britain found that 24% of child car seats were secured too loosely, 21% of child harnesses were too loose, and another 21% of buckles were not fitted properly. [4] To protect your child, learn how to properly use your child's car seat.  You can get assistance with car seat installation from your local police station.

To protect your children, the NHTSA recommends that all children under the age of 13 should avoid riding in the front seat.  The middle of the back seat is the safest place in the car.  Children under the age of 8, or less than 4'9" tall, should always use booster seats, which can reduce the risk of death in a car crash by over 50%.[5] Without a booster seat, the fit of a conventional seatbelt can lead to a child's serious injury or death in a collision of any magnitude.  A conventional shoulder seat belt fits across the neck of a small child.  A conventional lap belt fits above the pelvis of a small child, and can cause fatal internal abdominal injury in an accident.

The NHTSA also recommends that you keep children under the age of 3 in rear-facing child restraint car seats.  Rear-facing car seats spread the force of a frontal car crash over the whole area of the child's back, neck, and head, while preventing the head-snapping motion that can cause devastating injuries to young children.  A child has outgrown a rear-facing seat if his or her head comes within one inch of the top of the car seat.[6]

To keep your child safe, use rear-facing and booster seats where appropriate, and always be sure to buckle your children up.  It is more than merely a good safety tip: it's the law.

About the Author: Scott Fitzgerald is a law clerk with personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. This article is brought to you by Allen & Allen attorneys who have been representing injured Virginians for over 100 years. Their Richmond car crash lawyers have experience helping adults and children injured in car crashes that were caused by someone else.  The initial consultation to find out if you have a case is always free.


[1] See "Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System," National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars. [2] See U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "Traffic Safety Facts 2006: Children", at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2005/810618.pdf. [3] See "The Facts About Road Accidents and Children," The AA Motoring Trust, at http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/reports/facts_about_road_accidents_and_children.pdf. [4] See id. [5] See U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "BoosterSeat.gov", at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem. 9f8c7d6359e0e9bbbf30811060008a0c/. [6] See, "Why Rear-Facing is Safest," from Car-Safety.org, at http://www.car-safety.org/rearface.html.

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