As parents, we want nothing more than to keep our children safe from harm. We baby-proof our homes, cross streets with our children, supervise them on playgrounds, research their daycares and schools, and when they're older, even track their location by cellphone.
But many of us don’t give a second thought to buckling them into the car and driving off, even though motor vehicle accidents
are a leading cause of child injury and death each year.
What can we do to protect our children when they are riding in the car?
Car Accident Casualties by the Numbers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 1,000 children died and 178,000 were injured in car crashes in the U.S. in 2015. That means more than three children die and nearly 500 are injured every day in car accidents across the country.
While 25 percent of the children killed by cars are pedestrians or bicycle riders, the large majority—73 percent—are passengers in cars. Of the children who were killed as passengers in cars, only 39 percent weren't buckled in safety belts or car seats. A majority—61 percent—of children killed in car accidents were actually properly restrained. This statistic is shocking, because we believe we're protecting our children when we place them in the appropriate child restraint.
However, many of these fatal accidents were catastrophic crashes, including rollovers and collisions with semi-trucks and fixed objects—collisions that make it nearly impossible to protect all occupants. NHTSA estimates that the lives of 266 children under the age of 5 were saved by restraint use in 2015, and that child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71 percent, so it's important that you continue to buckle your children into the correct car seat every time they ride in the car.
Types of Injuries Sustained by Children
Children can suffer from a variety of injuries when involved in a car crash. A 2010 study conducted by NHTSA determined the most common injuries suffered by children under age 8 were the following:
- Head injuries. The most common car accident injury in children, head injuries include contusions and lacerations, concussions and unconsciousness, and skull base fractures.
- Thoracic injuries. Rib fractures and lung injuries were most likely to be suffered by infants under 12 months, and were commonly caused by the car seat restraints themselves.
Other injuries that children of all ages can suffer in a car accident include the following:
- Bone fractures
- Broken glass injuries
- Dental injuries
- Loss of limb
- Psychological injuries
Like adults, children can appear to be fine after a crash, but suffer from emotional trauma that they will need professional help to deal with later.
How to Protect Children in Car Crashes
Despite statistics showing that children can be seriously injured and killed even when they're properly restrained, the best thing you can do to protect them in a car is to put them in the right car seat. Babies under 24 months should be in a car seat that's rear-facing. As many restrained children are injured in rollovers and side-impact crashes, placing the car seat in the middle of the back seat is ideal. Car seats shouldn't be installed in the front seat of a vehicle if at all possible.
Other steps to take to protect your child include:
- Be extra-attentive as a driver when children are in the car. It's too easy to become distracted by your children when you're driving, but for their safety it's vital to put your cell phone away and don't turn around to tend to fussy children while you're driving.
- Don’t drive late at night. It may be tempting to do long road trips during the overnight hours as children sleep, but if you're drowsy, you increase the chance you'll cause an accident. Unless you can shift your sleep schedule a few days before your departure, don't attempt to drive through the night.
- Buy the safest vehicle you can afford. Even if it means buying used instead of new, look for safety features that help you keep the occupants safe, such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control.
If your child is injured in a car crash that wasn't your fault you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616 to shcedule your free, no obligation consultation.