The Importance of Car Seat Safety
July 1, 2017
The Journal of Pediatrics recently published a disturbing report concluding that parents and caregivers improperly restrain children in car seats, leading to thousands of serious injuries and fatalities that could be prevented. In addition to the report, research also indicates that nearly 95% of families improperly install car seats, 75% face a car seat the wrong way and too few children are restrained in booster seats.
The report takes into account years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It documents 18,000 accidents in which a child was seriously injured or died. In the fatal accidents, it was found that 43% of the children had not been restrained at all, or were restrained improperly. It also found that in more than 10% of the cases children had been seated in the front seat of the car, which is unapproved until they are over the age of 13. Placing children in the front seat of a car can be exceptionally dangerous in the case of an accident, because the force of an airbag can be fatal.
There are other national safety guidelines that the report found are not being followed often enough. These include the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation that parents or caregivers restrain children in rear-facing car seats until they are 2-years-old or meeting a height and weight requirement. Data also shows that approximately 7 in 10 parents stop using booster seats before their children reach 4’9,” the minimum height requirement for using only a seatbelt safely. Also concerning is that more than 3 out of 4 children’s car seats are installed incorrectly.
The report’s findings illustrate a frightening picture: that parents and caregivers are trying to install car seats or use other restraints to keep their children safe in most instances, but often they make dangerous, and unintentional, mistakes. As a result, safety features that are meant to increase a child’s chances of being unharmed in an accident are rendered much less effective.
It may come as no surprise, then, that the most common cause of death in children is unintentional injury, and statistically, car crashes cause the most injuries. The NHTSA estimates that 10,000 children get injured in car crashes every year. For all of these reasons, it is especially important for parents or caregivers to ensure that they are correctly using and installing booster seats and car seats, and requiring children who are old enough to wear seatbelts. Car crashes can cause serious injuries or be deadly, so it is important to remember that seatbelts, car and booster seats can all save a life when they are used properly.
The report urges for state policy to begin more heavily targeting child safety, even calling for federal regulations if necessary. It also stresses the importance of making sure children are properly restrained in cars. If you want to review the AAP’s recommendations and child safety policies, you can do so here.
Car seat and other proper restraints are very important, and data shows that many parents are making unintentional mistakes that can sadly end up being fatal. If you are worried about installing a car seat or want to make sure that yours is installed correctly, the NHTSA has created a very helpful resource. Through its main website, you are able to find out where the closest child car seat inspection station is to you. You can find more information on www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
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