Motor vehicle collisions have the potential to cause serious injury to passengers of all ages. However, children are among the most vulnerable to injury in traffic-related accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that auto accidents are the leading cause of fatal injuries for children between the ages of five and 19 years of age. Even if children survive a car accident, the CDC further reports that approximately 150 children in the United States require treatment in hospital emergency rooms every hour due to injuries suffered in auto accidents. Because of the high risk of injury to children in traffic collisions, every parent, guardian, or other adult driver should understand how to keep children safe in the car.
Ride in the Back Seat
Getting permission to ride in the front seat of a vehicle has always been a rite of passage of sorts. In recent years, however, research has shown that no child should receive this privilege until at least the age of 12 or 13, depending on their size. The front passenger seat is equipped with powerful front and often side airbags that should deploy in the event of a collision. Airbags deploy with enough force to regularly injure an adult’s face, arms, or chest. These injuries may substantially increase if the front passenger is a small child, and many small children have died from airbag deployment. For this reason, you should always buckle your child in the back seat. Furthermore, the middle of the back seat is the safest location in the car, as such positioning may prevent injuries in the event of broadside accidents.
Choose the Correct Car Seat
Just like clothes or shoes, children will outgrow car seats as they age. All parents should be aware of the weight and height limits on the particular model of car seat they choose in order to maximize the safety protections for their child. Generally speaking, however, the following are some examples of car seats that are appropriate for certain ages:
- Rear-facing seat — Up until the age of two (or until a child surpasses height and weight limits), you should always secure your child in the back seat in a rear-facing car seat. Never, under any circumstances, should you use a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a car with airbags.
- Front-facing seat – Once your child outgrows a rear-facing car seat (generally around age two), you should switch them into a car seat that faces forward. Children should remain in this seat until they surpass the height and weight limits of your particular model, which is often around age five.
- Booster seat — In the past, once a child outgrew a car seat, parents simply buckled them in without any additional equipment. However, studies showed that standard seat belts can cause harm to a child if they do not fit properly. On a smaller child, a seat belt will often stretch across their stomachs (instead of the upper thighs as intended) and their neck (instead of the chest). As you can imagine, if the belt tightens in a collision, the belt can cause severe injury to the child.
These are only a few safety tips for keeping your child safe in the car. If you or your child has suffered injury, call the Atlanta office of Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLCfor assistance today.