Automobile crashes continue to be the leading cause of death in children ages one to 14 years. Used correctly, child safety seats or travel vests greatly reduce child morbidity and mortality. Although many parents know child safety restraints are important, more than 80 percent of restraint systems are misused. Increased education of parents regarding proper use of child safety seats and vests can protect children from potentially fatal crashes. Parents should also be informed about community resources and the several types of child safety seats.
A great amount of force is exerted on the human body in a vehicle is in a collision. A car moving at 40 miles per hour strikes a wall with the same force as a car hitting the ground after driving off a 50-foot cliff.1 Parents should realize that even low-speed crashes can seriously injure or kill children. In 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that an average of seven children die and 866 children are injured in crashes DAILY!
When used correctly, child safety restraint systems are 71 percent effective in reducing infant deaths in passenger cars and 54 percent effective in reducing toddler deaths. They reduce the need for hospitalization by nearly 70 percent as well. Efforts to improve child safety restraint use have reduced child morbidity and mortality, but more improvement is needed. Learning to correct and detect misuse of child restraint systems will save many lives.
Importance of Proper Fit
Proper fit of restraint systems from pregnancy (child is unborn) throughout childhood is extremely important. See this article for a thorough and clear description of proper seatbelt fit and use.
Backward Is Best
Should a child face forward in a crash, the force is distributed by the harness system across the shoulders, torso, and hips, but the head and neck have no support. Without support, the infant’s head moves rapidly forward in flexion while the body stays restrained, causing potential injury to the neck, spinal cord, and brain. In a rear-facing position, the force of the crash is distributed evenly across the baby’s torso, and the back of the child’s seat supports and protects the head and neck. Because of this, the rear-facing position should be used until the child is one year of age and weighs 20 lb (9 kg).
Types of Child Safety Seats
Specifics about a particular kind of child safety seat are found in the owner’s manual for each seat. If the owner’s manual cannot be found, a copy can be obtained by calling the manufacturer.
Our favorite restraint system past the infant age is the Ride Safer Travel Vest.