Car accidents are one of the top causes of child deaths in the US. In the five years from 2011-2015, more than 3,000 children younger than 13 were killed in motor vehicle wrecks. More than half a million were injured in car accidents. Attorneys examining car wreck records know that most car accidents are preventable.
What mistakes do caregivers make that put children at higher risk of dying in an auto crash?
Not buckling up
Over one third of children killed in vehicular accidents were not restrained in any way: no car seat, no booster seat, no seat belt. An adult “holding” a child is not a safety restraint.
Drivers should not move a vehicle until everyone in the car is properly buckled in. This includes the driver. Research shows that children of parents who always wear a seatbelt are more likely to use a seatbelt as both a passenger and a driver throughout their teen years. Parents’ actions matter more than what they say about driving.
In California, passengers cannot ride in the back of a pick-up truck unless they are sitting in a seat and using an approved safety restraint system (seat belt).
Incorrect car seat installation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data show that about 60% of car seats are not installed properly. Forward-facing car seats should be tethered to the vehicle according to the tether anchor instructions for the car seat and the car (usually found in the vehicle owner’s manual). This prevents traumatic brain injury and other serious head and neck harm.
Car seat harnesses (five-point-restraints) should be tight and flat across the child’s shoulders and hips. The straps should be placed properly for the child’s size and age, so the force of a crash is spread across the child’s hips and chest. Proper placement of the chest clip, at the child’s armpit level, helps ensure the straps are properly placed.
The California Highway Patrol conducts child car seat checks to help parents ensure child safety restraint systems are properly installed. Some county departments of health, insurance and travel companies, children’s hospitals or fire departments also assist parents with car safety education and car seat checks.
Using the wrong seat for the child’s size
Using a properly installed car seat appropriate for a child reduces the chances of dying in a car accident by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. Infants and toddlers are not the only ones needing special protection in car wrecks, though. In 2015, the age group with the highest number of child fatalities from auto crashes was aged 8-12.
NHSTA data indicate that in 2015, about one-fourth of children aged four to seven were allowed to wear seatbelts instead of riding in booster seats. Not only does that dramatically increase the risk of death in a crash, it is illegal. California law requires children younger than eight to ride in a federally-approved passenger restraint seat, unless they are at least 4’9” and wear an appropriate seat belt. Children younger than two must ride in a rear-facing infant or toddler seat, unless the child weighs 40 pounds or more or is 3’4” tall.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile crash, get the help that you need from the car accident attorneys at Cerritos Legal. Call today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.