Despite advancements in vehicle safety features and laws requiring child safety restraints, children’s injury and death in car accidents are still a significant concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, more than 97,000 children 12 years and younger were injured in vehicle crashes, and 636 children died.
A startling statistic is that one-third of the children who died were not buckled up. It is up to parents and caregivers to ensure a child’s safety while in the car; it could save a child’s life.
Some Tips to Keep a Child Safe in the Car
Obey child restraint laws. Delaware’s child restraint law reads: All children must be properly restrained in a federally approved child safety seat appropriate for the child’s age, weight, and height up to 8 years of age or 65 pounds, whichever comes first.
In addition, children eight through 15 years old must be secured in a seat belt. Children under 12 years old or 65 inches in height must sit in the back seat if there are active airbags in the front passenger seat.
CDC data show the following:
- Restraint use saved the lives of 325 children aged four years and younger in 2017 alone.
- Car seat use reduces the risk for child injury in accidents by up to 82 percent compared with seat belt use alone.
- Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children aged four to eight compared with seat belt use alone.
Face the car seat backward. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that rear-facing seats are five times safer for children. They recommend rear-facing car seats for children at least until the age of two.
Ensure correct car seat installation. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for installing the car seat. Many police departments, stores, and child agencies offer clinics to ensure proper installation.
Do not buy used car seats. Although many car seats that have been used before can be safe, they are often missing important installation instructions and recommendations for height and weight. If a parent purchases a used car seat, they must make sure all parts work correctly and find the user manuals online if able.
Avoid winter coats. Bulky coats can make safety harnesses too loose to protect the child adequately. The child’s bulky coat should be removed before placing them in the car seat.
Leave the snacks and drinks at home. A child can easily choke on food or beverages, especially younger children. Plus, it may be difficult to see or hear a choking child if the seat is facing backward. Parents should feed the child at home or wait until parked to provide snacks and drinks.
Check the back seat on exiting the car. Everyone has read horror stories about children left in vehicles in hot or cold weather. A car’s interior can heat up quickly, even with moderate outdoor temperatures of 50 or 60 degrees. A child’s body temperature rises more rapidly than that of an adult. Hyperthermia sets in when a body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and organs can begin shutting down when body temperatures reach 107 degrees.
Check the vehicle and trunk when a child is missing. Children might try to hide or play in an unlocked vehicle or trunk. If a child is missing, check all vehicles near the location. Better yet, always lock a stationary car, whether parked in the garage, in the driveway, on the street, or elsewhere.
Be sure children sleep in safe positions. Children, especially infants and toddlers, are notorious for falling asleep in the car. Although this can be a good thing for the driver, it is crucial to ensure the child is in a safe sleeping position. This includes ensuring airways are not obstructed, heads are not resting against something harmful, and harness straps are in the proper place.
Secure pets and loose articles. In an accident, the sheer force of a pet or other object hitting a child can result in devastating injuries or even death. Everything in the vehicle must be secured when there is a child on board.
Keep windows and doors on child lock. A window can harm or suffocate a child who has access to the power button. Similarly, a child can open a door while the car is moving, leading to serious injury.
Do not give children harmful toys. Children left alone in a car seat, especially those facing backward, should not have unsafe toys, choking hazards, or other dangerous objects within their reach.
Keep the cell phone in the back seat. This is an excellent tip for two reasons: It does not allow the driver to talk or text and drive, and it forces the driver to check the back seat on exiting the car, where they may remember their child is with them.
Be a responsible driver. This is obvious when children are inside the car, but it also applies to when children are near the vehicle. Too many accidents and deaths occur when adult drivers accidentally hit or run over children they could not see. Drivers must always manually check around the car for children, and back out slowly, rolling down the windows to hear children while checking mirrors. Cameras in today’s cars can also significantly help with seeing children near the vehicle.
Teach children safety around cars. There are many things a parent or caregiver can teach children to increase their safety around cars, including the following:
- Never play around parked cars. It is not always easy for a child to distinguish between a parked vehicle and one getting ready to move forward or backward. Keep them away from all cars, to be sure.
- Never run into the street for a toy or ball. Children can easily be hurt or killed when they quickly run onto the road while at play. A driver may not be able to react in time. Teach children to stay out of the street from the time they begin walking.
- Safely cross the street. At a young age, begin teaching children to stop, look right, left, and right again when crossing the street. Teach them where to go across and how intersections, traffic lights, crossing lights, and crosswalks work.
- Know the dangers cars present. Children may not understand a car’s power and may see a car as a fun ride or a place to play.
It is never too soon to explain car safety and respect to a child.
What are the Stages and Ages for Child Car Restraints?
The CDC recommends drivers secure children in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt appropriate for their weight, height, and age. Their guidelines include the following:
- Use a rear-facing car seat in the back seat from birth until ages two to four or until the child reaches the maximum height and weight limits of their car seat. Parents can check the car seat manual or stickers for this information.
- After outgrowing the rear-facing car seat, youngsters should use a forward-facing car seat until at least age five. Buckle them in correctly and use the seat until the child reaches the car seat’s maximum weight and height limits.
- After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat, children should be buckled into a booster seat until seat belts fit correctly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach; and the shoulder belt lays across the chest, not the neck.
- Once seat belts fit properly without a booster seat, a child should use a seat belt every time they are in the car, no matter their age. Proper seat belt fit usually occurs when children are approximately four feet nine inches tall and between ages nine and 12.
- Children 12 and under using seat belts should be buckled in the back seat middle position whenever possible. Children should not be allowed to ride in the front passenger seat if there are airbags at least until age 13.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Victims of Car Accidents
Any car accident can cause distressing physical, financial, and emotional losses. When an accident involves children, these losses can be even more devastating. Anyone involved in a car accident that results in injuries, property damage, or the death of a loved one should contact the Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC as soon as possible. Our lawyers will fight for the compensation you deserve under the law. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients in Wilmington, Dover, Newark, and Middletown.