Car Accidents: The Leading Cause of Death Among Children

Safety Hazards

Doesn’t it always seem like children are little hazard magnets? When a toddler discovers a sharp edge, he or she immediately beelines to the danger. If an infant spots a choking concern, his or her first notion is to ingest the item. Given a child’s innate vulnerability to danger, parents are constantly on the lookout for life’s everyday perils.

Surprisingly, the worst risks are not the steps or wall outlets. Ironically, the most serious safety threat involves the car seat – a device indented to protect our loved ones.

CBS News reports that in the United States, car accidents are the leading cause of death for children older than 3 years old. In fact, these crashes bring about approximately 180,000 child injuries every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that child safety restraints reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers; however, this is only the case when parents use the seats correctly. Because many parents do not observe current safety guidelines for vehicle transportation, car seat use does not necessarily guarantee a safe ride for young children.

Study: Car Restraints

A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine investigated how many children and parents complied with safety guidelines. The report reviewed three years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In an evaluation of approximately 21,500 children, scholars observed safety restraint use at restaurants, gas stations, child care centers and different recreation centers.

Ultimately, the results exposed that as children grow older, car seat safety declines. Some young subjects observed in the study sat in the front of the car with absolutely no safety protection.

Car Seat Guidelines

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics mandate that kids utilize rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or physically grow out of restraints. After this, children may sit in forward-facing seats in the back of the vehicle.

Once a child grows out of forward-facing car restraints, he or she may graduate to a booster seat until a regular belt fits appropriately. Generally, kids should not move to the front passenger seat until they reach 13 years old.

Despite these recommendations, the recent study found that 84 percent of children using rear-facing seats were less than 1 year old, implying that many kids between 1 and 2 years old have been move to front-facing seats prematurely.

The Problem

Why is car seat use such a problem? An expert from the study notes that few children travel in compliance with existing safety guidelines.

Scholars feel that parents and children have not been sufficiently educated by community-based programs regarding car safety. As a result, experts are pushing toward more comprehensive education efforts. Such programs would disseminate information broadly to parents and children, especially across cultural barriers.

Another potential concern may be linked to inadequate safety warnings on car seats. Under West Virginia products liability law, a manufacturer may be liable to a consumer if it places a product with a design or structural defect into the market, and that defect is the proximate cause of an injury. However, even if the item is deemed safe as manufactured, the manufacturer may be liable to a harmed consumer if a product lacks adequate safety warnings regarding use.

With this in mind, one might question the satisfactoriness of car seat warnings. Are instructions for use sufficient? If parents are not using the seats in accordance with accepted procedures, this may suggest that existing directions are ineffective.

Ultimately, it is difficult to assess exactly why parents and children are not complying with national safety recommendations. Whatever the reasons, research indicates that car accidents are the leading cause of fatalities among young children. If your child has been a victim of a car accident, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer may help you evaluate and assess your available legal options.


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