Children and car accidents
Even though the number of child fatalities stemming from motor vehicle accidents has decreased since 1975, automobile crashes are still responsible for 25 percent of unintentional injury deaths with the majority involving children who were traveling as a passenger in a vehicle. The proper use of child safety restraints has the ability to reduce injury and death risk by as much as 75 percent for children up to age three and by almost half for children ages four to eight.
The use of age- and size-appropriate car and booster seats—and seat belts—reduces the risk for serious injuries and fatalities significantly. In fact, car seat use reduces injury risk in an accident by as much as 82 percent when compared to a seat belt alone. Booster seat use reduces said injuries by as much as 45 percent for children aged four to eight when compared to seat belt use alone. Finally, seat belt use reduces injury and death risk by as much as half.
Many industry experts recommend that all state adopt car seat laws, car seat distribution programs, and educational outreach programs to increase awareness and decrease injuries and fatalities to child passengers.
In the US alone, during 2016, 723 children ages 12 and under died in motor vehicle accidents as passengers, while more than 128,000 were injured. Of those children who died, as many as 35 percent of them were not properly restrained.
Even though every state and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws, many children—particularly age four and older—continue to ride unrestrained. Additionally, whereas 18 states have laws require children under the age of 12 to ride in the rear, the majority do not have laws regarding where a child must ride. Among the aforementioned laws, there remains wide variations regarding the child’s age, height, weight, and other factors.
Still, as many as 618,000 children aged 12 and under continue to ride in vehicles without being properly restrained in child safety or booster seats, or without a seat belt at some time.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more African-American and Hispanic children—45 and 46 percent, respectively, were not secured properly when compared to white children (26 percent). Additionally, 48 percent of older children ages eight to 12 were not correctly secured when compared with four-to-seven-year-olds (33 percent) and children under age four (21 percent.)
Another huge risk factor involves drunk driving. Between 2001 and 2010, alcohol was involved in one out of five child passenger deaths in the US. Of those, 65 percent of the child’s own driver was the one driving while intoxicated. Additionally, in nearly 61 percent of child passenger fatalities involving drunk driving, the child was not buckled up at all.
If a driver doesn’t use a seat belt, nearly 40 percent of children riding in such vehicles were themselves unrestrained. Drivers should model good behavior and always buckle up themselves.
Finally, child restraint systems are frequently used incorrectly. As many as 46 percent of all child car and booster seats are misused in such a manner as to reduce these seats’ effectiveness.
Perhaps the most obvious prevention tip is to make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their weight, height, and age. Thus, it is critical to know the stages for proper car seat use.
Rear-facing car seats: infants and toddlers
Forward-facing car seats: after outgrowing a rear-facing car seat until age five or until they reach the upper height and/or weight limit of their current seat
Booster seat: after outgrowing forward-facing car seat until seat belts fit properly
Seat belt: once it fits properly without a booster seat
Even if a child has outgrown a booster seat, a recent study demonstrated that increasing the age requirements to seven or eight for continued car/booster seat use not only increased threefold the rate of children using such seats but also decreased serious injuries and deaths by 17 percent.
Relatedly, all car and booster seats should be installed and used properly per manufacturer instructions. If necessary, parents can obtain help with installation from certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.
Child placement is also critical. Never seat young children in front of an airbag, especially rear-facing car seats. In fact, 12 percent of 2017 passenger vehicle child occupant fatalities occurred in front seats. Whereas this number has decreased significantly—down from 46 percent in 1975— the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), CDC, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NTHSA) and others recommend that children aged 12 and under ride in vehicles’ rear seats. In fact, the safest spot in the vehicle is in the middle of the back seat.
The bottom line is to always use proper restraints. No matter how short the trip may be, always ensure that children are buckled up properly.
We can help
If your child was injured in an automobile accident, please contact Venus Poe today at 864.963.0310 or fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. Knowing your rights is imperative to ensure you and your loved ones are fully compensated for your injuries and other losses and that your child’s safety and well-being is protected. Also, there is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can assist you with your case.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken to you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.