Auto Accidents Leading Cause of Death for Children 1-13
There are a number of dangers facing children in the world today, and we all try our best to keep our kids out of harm’s way. Among the most common threats to children between the ages of 1-13 are auto accidents, but we have the means to mitigate that damage with proper child seat practices. According to the NHTSA, fatal auto accidents claim 35% of children aged 13 and under who are not buckled into their appropriate seating; in the first decade of this century, that accounted for nearly 80% of auto accident fatalities for children aged 4-7.
Texas law enforces the recommendation that children under the age of 8 - or a height of 4 feet 9 inches - be in either a rear-facing, front-facing, or booster seat. This is a great start, and abiding by this law will save a host of lives, but the NHTSA doesn’t stop their recommendations there. Part of the issue is knowing what seat to use and how to use it, as the improper use of child seats is responsible for 59% of cases studied. Keeping our children safe in car seats is a process with three basic steps: determine the right kind of seat for your vehicle, determine the right kind of seat for your child, and finally, install and use the seat correctly.
Some vehicles are more difficult than others to fit seats into. This may be due to the size of the back seat (or lack of one, in many pickup trucks), the arrangement of the seat belt’s anchors, a lack of child seat anchors, or other various concerns. The NHTSA recommends that any potential seats be tested in the vehicle before use, to ensure they fit well and can be installed correctly.
Children should begin in a rear-facing seat. Infant seats are all rear-facing, and most children outgrow them around 8-9 months old. For their safety, however, they should not be turned around until at least 1 year old, preferably as late as 3. Car seat manufacturers will include height and weight limits, and children should be kept rear-facing until they reach the limit of their seat. Convertible and all-in-one seats allow for rear and front-facing arrangements, and are considered a wise investment after the infant seat because they can stay with the child for years to come.
Front-facing seats have height and weight limits as well, and should be used as long as possible. Once the child reaches that point, usually somewhere between ages 4-7, the time comes to switch to a booster seat. All-in-one seats, mentioned above, can be converted into a booster seat; otherwise, a new one will have to be bought. Booster seats must be used until the child is tall enough that the vehicle’s seat belts can be used properly. Proper seat belt arrangement means that the lap belt rests on the thighs rather than the belly, and that the shoulder belt crosses the chest and not the neck or face. Age 8 is the absolute minimum for the use of booster seats, but most children reach safe height somewhere between 8-12 and should not be rushed into unsafe seating.
Installing and properly using car seats depends on the kind it is and the vehicle it is going into. Before installation, make sure you understand the parts of the seat, where any car seat anchors in your vehicle are, and then carefully follow the instructions included by the manufacturer or given by the NHTSA.
None of us can control everything, but with care and the proper seats for our children, we can reduce the danger they face on the road. And if harm still comes to your child in an auto accident, know that you have options to receive justice and that we are readily available to help you see that through.