My mother told a story at a family gathering years ago about my little brother. Apparently, my mom was driving back to our house one day from the store and had put my brother in his car seat in the rear passenger seat behind her. She was almost home when, all of a sudden, a police officer pulled her over. When she noticed the lights reflecting behind her, she glanced over her shoulder and saw my brother standing up on the back seat looking out the back window of the car, waving to the police officer! Somehow, he had figured out how to get out of his child seat. Almost twenty years later, my brother and the rest of us can look back at this story and laugh, but at the time it was no laughing matter.
The Hard Facts
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. In 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 1,451 children ages 14 and younger died as passengers in motor vehicle crashes in the United States alone. In that same year, it was reported that among the same age group, approximately 203,000 were injured in vehicle crashes. Want to hear the shocking breakdown? That’s an average of four deaths and 556 injuries EACH DAY.
Could you imagine what might have happened that day if my mother had to suddenly stop short while my brother was unrestrained-or worse, if she was involved in an accident? I’m sure she shudders when she thinks about it today. The good news for parents out there is that when properly used, child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers ages one to four (NHTSA 2006).
Rules for Safety
As a general rule, all children under the age of 12 should ride in the back seat of a vehicle. The reasoning behind this is that riding in the back seat eliminates injury risk of deployed front passenger-side airbags and places children in the safest part of the vehicle in the event of a crash (CDC 2005).
NHTSA highly recommends the use of booster seats for children from the age of four until they are at least eight years old or 4’9″ tall (2006).
Make sure that you have purchased the right car seat. If you are unsure, ask your healthcare provider or contact the manufacturer of the safety seat. If you are unsure of whether or not you installed it correctly, take your vehicle to your local inspection station where a technician can check it for free.