It is 2014. Is there a single reason why a child would be riding in a motor vehicle today unrestrained? For that matter, is there a person who should be in a motor vehicle traveling down the highway unrestrained? The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that a startling number of parents are allowing unrestrained children in their cars. Although the statistics demonstrate an unexplained ethnicity increase, it is crystal clear that if you do not have a seatbelt or other restraint system, you are on average 33% more likely to suffer serious injury or death in any automobile accident. During 2009 – 2010 1409 children, nearly four every day, died in vehicle crashes and in the 10 years from 2002 – 2011, 9182 children died and over 148,000 were injured in automobile accidents. Almost 10,000 young souls snuffed out simply because they were unsecured in a car; because mom forgot; dad didn’t have time; or they were not comfortable in a safety restraint. What are some of the risk factors driving the problem? Drivers and adult passengers who were unrestrained had unrestrained children with them 40% of the time. Child restraint systems are often used improperly. In fact one study found 72% of nearly 3500 observed restraint systems were misused in a way that one could expect an increase in injury to the child in it. Of the children killed in 2011, 33% were not buckled up or placed in a restraint system at all. Sadly, when compared to other modern countries in the world, the United States has twice as many deaths of young children as a result of riding in a car unrestrained:
- U.S. 1.9 deaths per 100,000 U.K.
- 0.5 deaths per 100,000 Sweden
- 0.6 deaths per 100,000 Italy
- 0.7 deaths per 100,000 Canada
- 1.1 deaths per 100,000
What can be done? Use good judgment and restrain your child properly in the vehicle – no exceptions, the car does not move without a safety restraint. Use the guidelines below:
- Know the stages:
- Birth up to Age 2 – 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 age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.
- Age 2 up to at least Age 5 – Forward-facing car seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing 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 or 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 up until seat belts fit properly – 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 a Booster Seat – Children no longer need to use a booster seat once 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 lays across the chest (not the neck). 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.
- 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 air bag.
- Buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.13
- 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 themselves.