“Children don’t need to be in a car to be hurt by one” is a phrase that has percolated in my mind over the past week. Where we live in Virginia, I see at least one young child in a car not buckled in a seatbelt or safely protected by a booster seat, perhaps once a week. I rarely, if ever, see young children turned around facing backward in the backseat. Often I want to say something to the drivers–in a thoughtful way–but offering free advice about a hot-button issue like seatbelts or booster seats can elicit a hostile response. So we will continue to raise the issue in ChildSafetyBlog. Here, we are probably as sensitive to this issue as many people who see young adult drivers texting or adults simply using their phone, while driving. Yet, in our view, parents who transport children by car without at least fastening seatbelts or protecting them in a booster seat are clearly not using their best judgment.
To be protected very young children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 20 pounds in weight and a year old. Babies can be vulnerable to head and spine injuries in the case of a car crash, if their car seats are not rear facing. Some parents are concerned that their children may sustain leg injuries if their seats face backward, but thus far, there is no evidence of kids receiving leg injuries because their car seats were facing the back.
We were surprised to learn recently that many parents have actually given up booster seats for children between the ages 4 and 8–even though children can sustain serious injuries without booster seats. Booster seats are especially helpful because the child is raised to a height where the seat belt fits properly across lap and chest. Strapping children snugly in their seats is also a key to safety. If parents loosen the straps for any reason, they need to remember before they go on their way, to tighten them again. One more caution to parents and caregivers is to make sure when you send your child in someone else’s car, that the driver has your child’s booster seat to use for your child. You might even think about purchasing an extra, basic booster seat to use for this purpose.
Back to the earlier statement, kids don’t need to be in cars to be hurt by them. Backing over children is still a terrible tragedy no parent or caregiver should ever experience. The statistics are shocking: Fatal backing accidents kill at least 228 people every year — 110 of them are children under age 10 — and injure 17,000. We have passed the end of 2012, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pushed back the deadline to publish the new rules for car manufacturers, promised this would be done by the end of the year. The new rules would mandate new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles and help prevent fatal backing crashes. We want to know why this hasn’t happened? The response of “added costs to the auto industry”-in light of their current profits–is no longer a viable excuse!