By far the most common kind of injury accident regarding children is one that often involves a car collision. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), about 250,000 children are hurt every year in auto accidents.
This means that on any given day nearly 700 young children are damaged due to accidents on our roadways. Of the 250,000 children injured each year, approximately 2,000 die from their injuries. Children make up about 5% of total deaths due to automobile accidents. In fact, for children between the ages of 2 and 14, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death. Car accidents are also the principal cause of acquired disability for children nationwide. Just about 20% of the children who die in a car accident each year are killed in auto accidents among a driver who is legally intoxicated. About half of these children were killed while riding as guests in an automobile driven by an intoxicated driver.
How can parents limit risk of fatality or injury?
The failure of a child to wear a seat belt or use a safety seat is a contributive factor in more than half of the cases involving children who die in auto accidents. Not only is an unrestrained child a potential interruption to the operator of the vehicle, but also the failure to wear a seat belt dramatically increases the chance that a child will suffer much more serious injury or death.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 72% of the 3,500 observed vehicle safety restraints for children were being used wrong. When that happens, the probability that the child will suffer an injury or more severe injury elevates even more. NHTSA forecasts that a properly installed and used child safety seat suppresses a child’s risk of death by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4.
Every state, including Washington, expects the use of approved child safety seats for children under the age of 5. According to the NCSA there is only a 90% concurrence rate with respect to using approved safety seats for children under this age. The Washington State Patrol (WSP) advises that for children who are under one year of age or who weigh less than 20 pounds, the parents should follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) by seating the child facing the rear of the vehicle. Children who are ages 1 to 4 and weight 20 to 40 pounds can sit facing the front of the motor vehicle. Children between the ages of 4 and 8, or who are no taller than 4’9”, are required by Washington law to use booster seats (including lap and harness belts). The WSP suggests that the booster seat also meet AAP guidelines. The child restraint system must be used in the right way according to the instructions provided by both the seat AND vehicle manufacturer.
The WSP also recommends that an approved booster seat be used if: (1) the child’s knees do not otherwise bend comfortable at the edge of the seat, (2) the child does not sit with his/her hips all the way against the back of the auto seat, (3) the lap belt does not lie on top the child’s thighs, (4) the shoulder harness is not centered on the child’s shoulder and chest, or (5) the child cannot stay seated under the above conditions during the entire trip.