Keeping children safe in a car is a top concern for many parents. Car seats
and safety belts have improved safety for child passengers, with a marked
decline in the deaths of children in car accidents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that crash deaths
of children dropped 43 percent from 2002 through 2011,
the Associated Press reported recently.
During the 10-year period covered by the CDC report, accident fatalities
overall dropped to levels not seen since the 1940s. In other words, everyone
was safer on the roads during this 10 year period.
Children make up only a small portion of those killed in accidents. They
are less likely to be sitting in the front seat, where fatalities are
most common, and aren't out driving alone or cruising around late
at night when
drunk drivers are often on the road. These factors put them at a lower risk of dying
in a car crash.
In 2011, the last year covered by the report, children represented 650
of the total 21,000 deaths. In 2012, outside the scope of the report,
they represented 637.
Experts point to the increased use of child safety seats and seatbelts
for the decline in traffic fatalities involving children. But many people
still do not properly restrain their children while traveling.
About 25 percent of white children and almost half of Hispanic and African-American
children who died in crashes in 2009 and 2010 were not in car seats and
were not buckled up, according to the report. Some families may go without
child safety seats because of their cost, often well over $100.
Choosing the Right Safety Seat
Keeping your child safe begins with choosing the right car seat and using
it in the correct manner. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety
SaferCar.gov, car seat recommendations depend on the size and age of your child.
From birth to 12 months, your child should ride in a rear-facing infant
seat. From ages 1 to 3, the child can ride in a rear-facing or forward-facing
seat, though a rear-facing seat is recommended as long as the child's
weight will allow it. Check the seat itself for weight limits.
From 4 to 7 years, your child should sit in a forward-facing car seat with
a harness that goes across the chest. Again, check with the manufacturer's
guidelines for weight recommendations.
After a child grows out of a child safety seat, around age 8, he or she
can transition to a booster seat. But remember, the booster seat does
no good without a safety belt. Children should stay in the booster seat
until around age 12 or at least until the laws in your state mandate.
Having the right car seat is only as effective as installing it correctly.
Follow the directions carefully to ensure your child's car seat is
securely in place and will function as intended should you be involved
in a car wreck.
Keeping your child safe in the event of an
auto accident should be a top priority. As the CDC report indicates, safe driving and
proper child safety seats have saved lives and will continue to save lives
as long as we stay focused and committed to this common goal.