Even though you might have turned into an incredibly cautious driver after having kids, you’re still sharing the road with other drivers. Those other drivers might be a rush and not particularly concerned about obeying the speed limit and driving safely. This can put you and your kids at risk if you get into a car accident.
ar accidents are a leading cause of unintentional injury and death in children under the age of 12. Studies reveal that many children are injured or killed in car accidents because they’re either not using a car restraint system or they haven’t been secured in their car seat properly. As a parent, you can significantly decrease the risk of severe and fatal injuries by keeping a few things in mind.
Only Teens Should Ride In The Front
The back is the safest place in a vehicle for a child. Specifically, the center of the rear of the vehicle. This is the spot where a child will have the most protection if you’re involved in an accident. The risk of injury goes up significantly if a child is sitting in the front passenger seat.
Why? There are two main reasons: seat belts and airbags.
Seat belts are designed to restrain adults, not children. Until a child is about 10-12 years old and about 4’9” tall, they probably won’t be big enough to use a seat belt without a booster. A child who isn’t big enough to use a seat belt properly is more likely to wear it incorrectly. This can increase the likelihood of the seat belt failing during a crash. When a seat belt fails, the passenger can be ejected from the vehicle.
Airbags are intended to be a supplemental safety feature. They should work in conjunction with a seat belt to restrain a passenger. However, like seat belts, airbags are designed to protect adults. When a car is involved in a collision, airbags deploy at speeds between 150 and 200 mph. It only takes one-tenth of a second for an airbag to inflate and emerge into the vehicle.
When an adult is sitting in the front passenger seat, the airbag should deploy at chest level. This provides the most support during a crash. The force is so great that it is possible to break or injure an adult’s ribs.
When a child is sitting in the front passenger seat, the airbag deploys closer to the head. This can cause burns, neck injuries, or even suffocate a young child. The closer a child is sitting to the front of the vehicle and airbag, the more severe the injury will probably be.
When a child is in the back of a car in a proper child restraint system, airbags and adult seat belts don’t pose as much of a risk.
Remember to Buckle Your Kid Into Their Seat Before You Leave
Research shows that parents who don’t wear a seat belt in the car are less likely to buckle their own kids before driving. Unfortunately, research shows that between 15 and 20 percent of adults in Philadelphia don’t wear a seatbelt in the car.
Not wearing a seat belt increases the risk of serious injury or death if you get into a car accident in the city. Statistics show that more than half of all victims in fatal car accidents weren’t wearing their seat belts at the time of a crash.
That’s just for adults. Kids are much more likely to sustain severe injuries or die in an accident if they’re not properly secured in their age-appropriate car restraint. So, take a moment to settle your child in their car seat, fasten their five-point harness or safety belt, and make sure everything is secure. Running a few minutes late is better than a devastating accident.
Don’t Rush to Promote Your Child Before They’re Ready
In Sweden, children are required to sit in a rear-facing child safety seat until they’re at least four years old. Sweden also boasts the lowest crash fatality rate for children younger than six. There’s a reason for that. Children are the safest when they’re riding a rear-facing car seat. Studies suggest that rear-facing is anywhere between 70 and 80 percent safer than front-facing.
Despite this, most kids in the United States don’t remain in a rear-facing seat for very long. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children remain rear-facing until they’re at least two years old. Before that, the recommendation for rear-facing was just until the age of one. Now, however, the AAP recommends keeping kids rear-facing until age two or as long as possible.
These are just recommendations. Car seat laws vary by state. In Pennsylvania, for example, children are only required to rear-face until they’re two years old and outgrow the weight and height requirements set by the manufacturer. That’s half the time required by Sweden, where children die in car accidents much less than American children.
Kids will be eager to face the front of the vehicle, ditch their car seat, and ride in the car like a big kid. However, don’t promote your child to a new seat or position until they are physically and behaviorally ready. Switching them to a front-facing seat or booster too soon - or allowing them to use just a seat belt - can put them in serious danger.