How Can We Reduce Injuries to Children in Car and Truck Accidents?

As regular readers of our website know, traffic deaths and injuries are on the decline in Maryland, The District of Columbia and nationwide. Yet a disproportionate number of kids are injured every year in car and truck wrecks.

The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration estimates that, for the period 1993-2002, on average two thousand kids between birth and age fifteen die in motor vehicle collisions. Almost 300,000 kids per year are injured. How do we change these terrible numbers?

First we need to look behind the numbers a little. 54% of the kids killed every year in car crashes are unrestrained. Which is to say, no child seat, no seat belt, no restraint. Mandatory laws seem to make no difference. As was observed in our recent blog on this topic, people who use their own seat belts also belt their kids in and keep them safer. People who don't use their safety belts only use restraints for kids from birth to seven 54% of the time.

Wow! It's no coincidence that 54% crops up twice in that paragraph. The fact is that kids are far more likely die in car accidents if they are unrestrained. Of course, so are adults. That's the point. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO WEAR A seat belt!

Aside from the safety benefit adults gain from safety restraints, it is clear that they are far more likely to use safety restraints for their most vulnerable passengers, babies and kids under seven, if they use one themselves.

Safety restraints won't save everybody but they sure help. This message has gotten through to some extent. For example, 99% of babies twelve months and younger are restrained in some way. 92% aged one to three years old and 89% four to seven years old are restrained.

Other encouraging news involves rear placement of children. In 2008 99% of babies (birth to twelve months) were placed in the rear seat. This is an improvement over 2007 when 95% were in the back. Oddly, for both 2007 and 2008, 98% of toddlers (one to three years old) were backseat passengers. How come toddlers were better protected in 2007 than babies? We will probably never know.

The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) conducted by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration provides some statistics which might further guide us.

Generally women are a little more likely to belt kids than men. White drivers are more likely to restrain kids than black.
But the number one finding is that unbelted drivers are far less likely to restrain kids. Restraint use when kids are in the front seat is much lower than in the backseat and pickup truck drivers are substantially less likely to use safety restraints than drivers of cars, suvs and minivans.

There are also sunstantial regional variations. Westerners are the best, Northeasterners the worst. What becomes abundantly clear from the numbers is that adult seat belt use, for whatever reason, makes kids safer.
Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer