Tag Archives: car seat safety

Seatbelts, Booster Seats and Back-Over Accidents

“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.[1] 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!

Let’s Get It Right: Booster and Car Seat Inspections!

Motor vehicle injuries are the number one cause of death in children in the United States.1 Many deaths caused by motor vehicle injuries are preventable. Making certain children are placed in age- and size-appropriate car and booster seats reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half.2

Dr. Arlene Greenspan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that crashes are among the leading causes of kids’ deaths and injuries. In the U.S., crashes kill approximately 550 children up to 9 years old, and send almost 220,000 to emergency rooms with injuries.  Dr. Greenspan says safety seats can reduce these numbers, if booster and car seats are used properly:

“Parents often move their child into the next stage of car seat too early. Parents make mistakes in the way they install car seats. And parents may strap their children into the car seat too loosely or incorrectly.”3

The statistics and the warnings are fairly well publicized. ChildSafetyBlog.org continues to observe that faulty booster and car seats are being recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the manufacturers. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) also alerts people through recall and defect notices.

Here is the most recent recall notice ChildSafetyBlog has received from NHTSA for faulty booster seats:

“Britax is recalling certain Britax Chaperon infant car seats model E9L69N9 Moonstone, E9L69P2 Red Mill, E9L69P3 Savannah, and E9L69P5 Cowmooflage, manufactured from April 2009 through May 2010. The chest clip was incorrectly produced which could result in a more brittle chest clip than was intended. As a result, the chest clip which positions the harness straps across the infant’s shoulders may break when the chest clip is engaged as the infant is secured into the infant car seat. The sharp edges of the broken chest clip could create a risk of a skin laceration and the fractured components of the chest clip may present a small parts/choking hazard. Britax will mail to consumers notice and remedy kits that contain a replacement chest clip and instruction sheet. The safety campaign is expected to begin on or about November 11, 2010. Owners may contact Britax Customer Service Department at 1-888-427-4829.”4

So with all these facts accessible to parents and caregivers, why in the U.S., as during 2008, should 968 children ages 14 years and younger die as occupants in motor vehicle crashes? During that same period, approximately 168,000 children 14 and under were injured. Why, in one year, did more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 ride in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time?  As parents and caregivers, we need to get a better handle on getting booster and car seat inspections, NOW!

A certified car inspection station can show parents, family members and caregivers how to properly install and adjust booster and car seats and how to place children in them safely.  Call your local community police, motor vehicle or fire department to learn where you can obtain a free certified car or booster seat inspection.  A certified car inspection station can show you how to do it right for the safety of your children.

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1. CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [2010 August 2].

2. Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts 2008: Children. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2009. [cited 2010 August 2].

3. HHS. www.hhs.gov,  Health Beat, “Kids Seated Safely”, Dreyfuss, Ira, November 3, 2010.

4. Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Office of Defects Investigation, Recall Notice, 2010 October 30.