Report Shows Car Seat Safety on the Decline – Do you Know the Common Mistakes? December 7, 2017
A recent report shows that parents and caregivers are prone to becoming less strict with proper car seat use when their children grow older, and that approximately one-third of all children ages 8 to 12 are allowed to sit in the front seat of cars. Misusing car and booster seats and permitting children who do not meet federal age requirements to sit in the front seats of cars can result in deadly injuries to a child, as well as injuries that can cause permanent, life-changing disabilities.
There are so many car seat and booster seat options on the market, knowing how to make the safest choice for your child is often overwhelming, but learning about car seat safety can help you make the right choice. By making the right choice, car seats and other kinds of child safety restraints are able to reduce the risk of injury to children by as much as 11%. The American Automobile Association (AAA) also reports that children in car seats or safety restraints are 28% less likely to die in car crashes. Booster seats can save lives as well: the report measured that children in booster seats are 45% less likely to die in a crash than those wearing seatbelts alone.
Car accidents happen every single day. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 663 kids under the age of 12 were killed in car accidents in 2015 – and over 120,000 others suffered serious injuries. The CDC also found that almost 620,000 children between the ages of 0 and 12 rode in cars without using car seats, booster seats or seat belts at least some of the time.
Not using car and booster seats correctly – or failing to follow other crucial safety guidelines, such as disallowing children under 13 from sitting in front passenger seats – can be extremely dangerous to a child. In fact, it can increase the chances of serious injury or death. Below are some examples of common car and booster seat mistakes, as well as what kind of consequences they can cause:
- Putting a child in a front-facing car seat before the age of 2 can result in serious or deadly injuries. Before 2-years-old, children have weak necks and are prone to having their heads snap forward quickly in the case of an accident;
- Setting the harness clip on a car seat too low can cause internal, gastrointestinal injuries to a child in an accident. Additionally, having the clip too low can make the harness too loose or ill-fitted;
- Loose or twisted harness straps: these prevent a child from being adequately secured in his or her seat, making it more likely that he or she will be thrown if there is an accident;
- Using expired car seats: the AAP says that most car seats expire after 6 years. Not only can older seats become structurally unsound, weathered and damaged, but they also may not be up-to-date with current safety standards; and
- Bundling a child up before putting them in a car or booster seat can result in the harness clip and safety straps being too loose. If a crash happens, a bundled up child is less likely to be properly secured in her or her seat.
Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), depending on a child’s age, height and weight, the recommendations for car and booster seats vary. For infants and toddlers under the age of 2, only rear-facing and rear-facing convertible seats are recommended. The AAP says that toddler and preschool-age children should use convertible seats until they’ve outgrown the assigned height and weight requirements; in that case the academy advocates for forward-facing car seats equipped with safety harnesses. Convertible car seats generally are able to switch from rear to forward-facing.
Once a school-aged child has outgrown his or her forward-facing car seat with safety harnesses, the AAP says it is time for belt-positioning booster seats. Belt-positioning booster seats ensure that seat belts are safely fitted to a child before he or she reaches the age, height and weight requirements for wearing a seat belt alone. According to the AAP, children typically are ready to wear just seat belts when they are between the ages of 10 and 11 and have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height or above. However, every child under the age of 13-years-old should always sit in the backseat of a car. To read the AAP’s full list of car seat guidelines for parents and caregivers, please visit: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx.
The report indicating this decrease in car seat safety and the failure of some individuals to observe federal safety guidelines is not the first to document such alarming data. Another report – this one published in the journal Pediatrics – found that approximately 20% of children who are only 12 months old ride in forward-facing car seats in spite of the AAP’s recommendation that no child under 2-years-old be placed in a forward-facing seat. Researchers found that many parents and caregivers who failed to follow AAP guidelines were unaware of them or under-educated on car seat safety, prompting them to urge an increase in educational and other sorts of outreach efforts to help better keep children safe.
Knowing how to properly use and install a car or booster seat can also be quite confusing. Luckily, there are helpful options out there for parents and caregivers! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids USA help individuals find car seat fitting stations and certified child passenger safety seat technicians. You can view the NHTSA’s list here: https://www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/cps/index.htm, and Safe Kids USA’s at this address: https://www.safekids.org/events/field_type/check-event.
Increasing the proper and safe use of car seats, booster seats and child restraint systems will lower the number of children who lose their lives or sustain serious injuries as a result of being inadequately harnessed in during a motor vehicle accident. The NHTSA estimates that as many as 43% of all children who die in fatal crashes were improperly restrained or not restrained at all. Numbers like these tell the same story: we can better protect our children and help keep them safe by observing safety guidelines and looking out for unsafe and dangerous car and booster seats.
Allentown Product Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Children Injured by Defective Car Seats
If your child sustained any injuries from an unsafe, mislabeled or defective car seat, please contact our Allentown product liability lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.