The leading cause of death for children in the United States is car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015, 663 kids aged 12 or younger died in car accidents and more than 120,000 suffered injury. Of those who died, 35 percent were not wearing seat belts.
Many of these deaths could have been prevented. Properly using car seats for infants reduces the chance of death by an astonishing 71 percent. For toddlers, the risk goes down 54 percent. For children ages 4 through 8, the use of booster seats can lower the risk of catastrophic injury by 45 percent as compared to seat belts alone. And for older children, regular seat belt use reduces the risk of death and serious injury by half.
You might be surprised to find out how common it is to use car safety devices like car seats improperly. One study showed that 72 percent of observed car seats and booster seats were used so improperly that they actually increased the risk of a child’s injury or death.
Unique Risks to Children in Car Accidents
Did you know that trying to hold onto a baby during a 30mph car crash is as difficult as lifting eight bags of cement at the same time? Even low speed crashes pose significant dangers to children, especially very young ones. But accidents are not the only risks to children in cars.
- You would never leave your child alone in a car, would you? Cars can act like greenhouses, trapping heat, and it only takes a couple minutes for a child to begin suffering heatstroke. Children’s bodies warm up 3-5 times faster than adult bodies.
- Vehicles are often stolen with children inside. Sometimes, the thief does not even notice the child inside.
- It takes 22 pounds of force to suffocate or injure an infant. Power windows can exert 30-80 pounds of upward force.
- Hundreds of children are injured or killed every year when left alone and they set a car into motion.
- Children can be strangled by ill-fitting seat belts.
- Thousands of children are killed or seriously injured every year when exiting vehicles and then being run over by inattentive drivers
Do your part to keep your child safe. Make sure car seats are properly installed. Make sure your child wears a seat belt correctly. And never leave your child in a car unattended.