Recent estimates indicate that, in the U.S., car crashes are the number one cause of child death. These estimates also indicate that in fatal car accidents, most children were not secured in safety seats. Using a car seat for your child can be a matter of life and death.
TYPES OF CAR SEATS
There are three major kinds of car seats for kids: rear-facing seats, front-facing seats, and booster seats.
These are designed for very small children, particularly infants. Most of them double as a carrier, with a swivel handle. The baby is placed on their back, in a comfortable laying position. Then the carrier is strapped into the car, with a soft harness going around the baby’s torso. The child faces the back of the car seat.
Rear-facing seats are specifically designed to cradle the child’s head. Babies have underdeveloped neck muscles and need constant head support. These seats help keep small craniums in place, protecting skulls, necks, and spines. It is recommended that any children under 40 lbs. be kept in a rear-facing seat.
As kids grow, they should be placed in front-facing seats. These are designed for bigger bodies, and they give the children more opportunity to interact with others in the car. Typically, the seats are harnessed into the car from latches in the back. You can use seatbelts or pre-installed child seat systems. The best front-facing seats have a five-point harness that straps the children from many different angles, creating more security. Front-facing seats are appropriate for children between 20 – 80 pounds.
When children have outgrown their front-facing seats, they should graduate to booster seats. These are simply additions to the adult car seat. They latch into the back seat like normal, but they don’t have a back. Instead, they are placed under the child, bringing them up to use the adult seat and seatbelts. Boosters are best described as sturdy, secure cushions. Eventually, kids will outgrow the booster and be able to simply use seats.
YOU CANNOT RELY ON AIRBAGS
Airbags are not designed to protect children. In fact, they are more likely to injure kids than keep them safe. Airbags are made to expand rapidly, sometimes at a rate of 200 miles per hour. They provide cushioning to keep adults from hitting hard dashboards or steering wheels, but they are not soft like a pillow. Hitting one hurts, and adults often suffer black eyes or broken noses from airbags.
This kind of force could cause serious damage to a child’s body. Airbags are specifically designed to protect adults and teens who have harder, more developed frames.
Keep your child safely tucked in their child seats and away from airbags. Kids should be latched into the back seat. The closer you can keep your kids in the middle, the better, as many modern cars have side airbags. If you have a sports car with only two seats, push the passenger seat as far back as you can, keeping kids away from the airbag inflation area. Check to see if you can switch off your passenger seat airbag, an option among many modern cars.
CORRECT INSTALLATION IS IMPORTANT
Incorrect use of a safety seat is as dangerous as having no seat at all. Studies show that many adults believe they properly secured their children when they actually made a mistake. Poorly secured child seats are 3 ½ times more likely to cause an injury. Often, insecure seats are the result of loose straps and harnesses. Make sure to read your owner’s manual, as modern cars have designated, built-in systems specifically designed for car seats, and you may be able to avoid this issue.
MAKE SURE THE SEAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR CHILD
Using wrong seat can also have dangerous results. Children who are too small for their current seat may not be fully secured, and the seat itself becomes a danger. In a wreck, children can move through the empty spaces between them and the straps. The velocity can cause their head to keep moving forward, leading to whiplash. A child who is too small will also have more distance between their cranium and the headrest, which could have injurious results. When it comes to child safety seats, distance is the enemy of safety.
A child who is too big for their seat is also in danger. They are more secure than a smaller child, but there is more pressure exerted on their chest, shoulders, hips, and inner thighs. In a car wreck, that pressure could build and lead to broken bones. There should be a little bit of slack between the child and their harness. Something that is already squeezing them can cause injury.
DEFECTIVE CAR SEATS
Sometimes people are injured as the result of a car wreck, and sometimes they are injured by the very equipment meant to protect them. If your child was injured by a defective car seat, talk to an attorney today. You may be eligible to file a defective product claim against the manufacturer.
If you or your child has been injured in a car accident, call 918-492-7674 today, or contact us online. We have years of experience recovering damages for people who were hurt on the road.