Two children were ejected from an SUV in Prince George’s County this past July after their vehicle lost control and crashed into a guardrail. The children were hospitalized after the accident and miraculously did not sustain any life-threatening injuries- not all children are this lucky.
Car Crashes Kill More Than 3 Children Every Day
Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 15. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,132 children were killed and over 178,000 were injured as a result of car accidents in 2015. This averages out to three children who die and 487 that are injured every day from vehicle accidents, and children have absolutely no control over these results.
The devastating reality of these statistics is that most child fatalities resulting from car accidents are preventable. The NHTSA reported approximately 35% of children who died in car accidents in 2015 were not buckled up in car seats, boosters or seat belts…at all. And of the ones who were buckled in, about 59% were not done so properly.
Child Passenger Safety Week
To help reduce the number of children who die in car accents every year, NHTSA created Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 23-29). This campaign focuses on generating awareness of child passenger safety while providing plenty of resources for parents and caregivers on the most up-to-date research regarding proper car seat safety. In addition, the NHTSA named the last Saturday of the campaign National Seat Check Saturday (Sept. 29), where local institutions around the country hold free inspections to ensure parents are using and placing car seats in their vehicles correctly.
National organizations, non-profits, police departments, hospitals, and safety advocacy groups across the United States actively participate in promoting this vital campaign, providing educational events on the most critical topics surrounding the increasing trend of childhood fatalities on the road.
Car Seats Save Lives…It’s The Law
Car seats and seat belts are not an option for children in the car. Not only is it illegal to go without them, but neglecting to secure your child safely could unnecessarily cost them their life, even in a minor car accident.
In Maryland, residents must abide by the following car seat safety laws whenever transporting a child in the car:
- Children under eight years old must ride in an appropriate child restraint unless the child is 4’9” or taller.
- Children from eight to sixteen who are not in child restraints must be secured in a seat belt in a proper seat in the vehicle.
- The driver is responsible for making sure all children are buckled up appropriately.
- Rear-facing car seats cannot be placed in a front seat with an active bag.
NHTSA estimates the lives of nearly 300 children could be saved every year from being properly secured in car seats and booster seats. However, using just any car seat for your child is also not safe and can cause more harm than good.
Common Car Seat Errors
The National Safe Kids Campaign reports that four out of five child passenger safety seats are being used incorrectly, which could cause serious and fatal injuries when collisions occur. Unknowingly, many parents are making critical errors in judgment when purchasing, installing and securing their children in car seats, all affecting the level of protection their child will have in the case of an accident.
An article published by Parent’s highlights eight of the most common mistakes parents should avoid when it comes to providing optimum car seat safety for their kids:
- Car seats are installed too loose.
- Harnesses securing children in car seats are too loose.
- Infants are turned facing forward too soon.
- Rear-facing seats are not at the right angle or leveled.
- Retainer clips on the car seat are used incorrectly.
- Harness straps are fed through the wrong slots.
- Parents are not using booster seats for older children.
- Parents are using recalled car seats.
Any mistake when it comes to your child’s car seat can be a deadly one. When children are not placed properly in their car seats, or car seats are not secured appropriately in a car, children are far more likely to slip out of straps, be ejected from the car seat, or even be injured when the entire seat is thrown from a vehicle in a crash.
Not One Size Fits All
There are hundreds of car seats on the market that can cause quite the confusion for parents looking for the best one to fit their child. Picking car seats based on brand name and design will do nothing to help protect your child- you have to customize your choice based on your child’s body type.
The NHSTA describes four types of car seat restraints parents can use help protect their children when riding in the car:
- Rear-Facing Car Seat: used for infants and children who are not large enough to face forward.
- Forward-Facing Car Seat: used for children who are old enough to sit forward but need limitations on forward facing movement in a crash
- Booster Seat: for older children generally used with a seat belt.
- Seat Belt: used for teens and older children who have grown past the recommendations to fit in a booster.
Which option is best for your child will depend less on the age of your child and more on the height and weight. Your car seat choice may also depend on the type of vehicle you are driving, as not all smaller cars can fit some bulkier style car seats. For parents in need of guidance when it comes to their child’s car seat, there are plenty of local resources available to help assist in purchasing, installing, and even inspecting child passenger seats to make sure your child is safe to right in your car.
Child Passenger Safety Tips
Each state is responsible for establishing their own child passenger safety laws. Unfortunately, using Maryland laws as an example, most of these state laws are pretty sparse. Lack of strict state laws regarding child passenger safety is one of the reasons for while Child Passenger Safety Week exists. Parents are abiding by the laws of having car seats and using seatbelts but lack the knowledge of how to use these devices correctly to prevent fatalities and injuries.
To help provide parents with more information on keeping kids safe in their vehicle, the National Safety Council (NSC) and the NHTSA encourages getting started using these child passenger safety tips:
- Always choose a seat based on your child’s weight and size.
- Don’t base a car seat on the age of your child.
- Refer the manufacturer’s instructions specific to your child’s car seat, including installation techniques using seat belts and anchors in your vehicle.
- Keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible within the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations. Don’t take them out because ‘they’re probably fine’.
- Take advantage of car seat safety checks in your area during Child Passenger Safety Week.
- Schedule a car seat installation if you are pregnant to get educated about child passenger safety from the start.
- Keep children in the back seat until at least age 12. Airbags are life-saving for adults but can be deadly for children.
- Don’t negotiate with your kids if they don’t want to wear proper safety harnesses.
- Don’t assume your child’s harness is too tight. If you can pinch the straps, it’s too loose.
- Never put children in car seats with bulky clothing or coats.
- Replace car seats that are older than eight years old.
- Frequently check for car seat recalls.
D’Amore Child Passenger Safety Giveaway
D’Amore Law is committed to keeping Maryland children safe and secure when it comes to riding in the car. That’s why we will be giving away gift cards to some very lucky winners to purchase a new or upgraded car seat!
Details: The contest will be held during Child Passenger Safety Week: September 23rd – 29th 2018. Winners will be chosen at random and receive a gift card to be collected in person from Paul D’Amore and used towards a child’s car seat on Saturday, September 29th at a local store (TBD).
MD Car Safety Resources
Maryland residents looking for resources on how to participate in Child Passenger Safety Week and National Seat Check Saturday can find a number of helpful resources right in their own communities.
Several events and inspection stations are being set up throughout the state of Maryland. Most of them residents will need to call ahead to make an appointment. Parents should pre-install your car seat(s) to the best of your ability, and bring your vehicle and car seat manuals with you to any of these events. Some of the local events scheduled are below:
MONTGOMERY COUNTY- 8AM-12PM:
Safe Kids Montgomery County
Child Safety Seat Inspection Station
14111 Georgia Ave
-Safe Kids Montgomery County car seat events are for Montgomery County residents only, and appointments are necessary. Please call 240-777-2223 for an appointment.
QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY – 2PM-5PM:
Queen Anne’s County Health Department
Goodwill Fire Station
Centreville, MD 21617
–Car seat inspections are by appointment only. Please contact:
Maggie Schmidt at 443-262-4482 for an appointment.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY- 6PM-8PM:
503 Quince Orchard Rd, Gaithersburg, MD.
–Safe Kids Montgomery County car seat events are for Montgomery County residents only, and appointments are necessary.
Name: Montgomery County Safe Kids
MONTGOMERY COUNTY- 1PM-4PM:
Criswell Chevrolet, 503 Quince Orchard Rd, Gaithersburg.
– Safe Kids Montgomery County car seat events are for Montgomery County residents only, and appointments are necessary. Non-Montgomery County residents may participate in Fitzgerald Auto Mall events, held monthly (March-December) in Rockville, with no appointment necessary.
Name: Montgomery County Car Seat Inspection Station
BALTIMORE CITY- 3PM-7PM:
Appointment are necessary and checkup event locations rotate throughout six sites in Baltimore County by the month.
Name: Kids In Safety Seats
Other Maryland Resources residents can check out for Child Passenger Safety events include:
- Safe Kids Maryland: Provides resources to car-seat checkups and safety workshops with coalitions in Baltimore, Carrol County, Frederick County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Washington County.
- Maryland.gov: Provides a calendar of available seat check stations with types for inspections.
- Maryland KISS (Kids In Safety Seats): Provides links to local laws, fact sheets, inspections, and events