During Child Passenger Safety Week (September 23-29), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is hoping to increase awareness about car safety for children. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages one to thirteen, with more than 9,000 fatalities occurring from 2002 to 2011. NHTSA hopes that increasing awareness and spreading information about how to keep children safe can dramatically reduce this number.
How to Keep Child Passengers Safe
One of the most effective ways to increase the safety of child passengers is to have them ride in the rear seats of the vehicle. Data shows that this simple precaution can reduce the risk of fatal injury by about 75% for children under the age of three and close to 50% for children between the ages of four and eight.
Another effective way to increase safety is by ensuring that all child passengers are buckled in or are in the proper child seat. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the issue of child fatalities that result from car crashes and found that around one-third of the victims were not properly buckled into their seats. Although restraints are not an absolute guarantee of safety, they can save lives and reduce the risk of harm. NHTSA found that the use of a child seat greatly reduced the number of fatal injuries to children in passenger cars; children under one year old were found to be 71% safer, and children between one and four were 54% less at risk when in a seat. For children older than five, use of a seatbelt reduced the risk of fatal injury by 45%.
Proper use of a child seat is just as important as the use of the seat in order to keep child passengers safe. Improperly installed or incorrectly used child seats will not have the same risk-reducing effects. Although the CDC urges that children ages five and older be restrained by a booster seat until a seat belt properly fits and restrains them, research indicates that only slightly more than 20% of children under eight are protected by a booster seat on a regular basis. In addition, parents who think they are protecting their children may be leaving them exposed to increased risks; research shows that about 70% of children are improperly restrained.
Statistics indicate that a few simple precautions can greatly increase the safety of child passengers. Through Child Passenger Safety Week, NHTSA is spreading awareness of safer practices and the consequences that can arise if they are not followed. The more information and knowledge that is shared, the more likely it is that drivers and parents will do all they can to protect the children in their vehicles. In child passenger safety, the smallest changes can make a huge difference.
About the Author: Paul Hux is a partner and trial attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. His practice is dedicated entirely to plantiff’s personal injury, including car accidents, wrongful death, and traumatic brain injuries. Paul works in the firm’s Chesterfield office and has been practicing personal injury law for more than 20 years.