What Do Parents Need to Know About Car Seat Safety?

Child in carseat sleeping

Safety technology has come a long way in recent years, making motor vehicles safer than ever. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts have also become much more effective at protecting parents’ most precious cargo. However, to keep children safe when riding in the car, it is crucial that parents use the appropriate car seat based on the child’s age and weight, and that the child remain securely restrained for the entire ride. A failure to do so can increase the risk of a devastating personal injury or fatality in the event of a serious car wreck.

Understanding the risks associated with this type of unsafe behavior, and the specific requirements when it comes to the proper child restraint systems, will help keep children safe and sound. Parents whose children have been injured in a car wreck are urged to reach out to an experienced car wreck lawyer for assistance.

How Common are Car Wreck Fatalities Involving Children?

Car wrecks are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of five children are fatally injured and another 568 are injured every day in car wrecks in the United States. In 2018 alone, 636 children under the age of 12 died in car wrecks, and over 97,000 were injured. Thirty-three percent of the children who died were not properly restrained. Unfortunately, approximately 46 percent of car seats and booster seats are installed incorrectly or misused in a way that can make them less effective.

What are Common Causes of Injuries Related to Child Car Seats?

In addition to not using a seat belt, failure to use the appropriate car seat for the child’s age and weight, or improperly securing the car seat, other common causes of car seat-related injuries involve the parents or caregivers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children be properly restrained in the appropriate car seat every time they ride in the car. However, parents who found it to be a hassle getting their child in and out of a car seat multiple times a day were less likely to follow the AAP’s recommendations.

Other hassles included the child acting out and uncomfortable conditions. Researchers from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago analyzed information about transportation safety behaviors and 20 hassles parents mentioned when using car seats. The 238 parents involved in the study represented a range of socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, all of whom had children between the age of one and 10. Researchers found the following results from the study:

  • Eighty percent of parents said that they experienced a slight problem with one or more of the hassles.
  • Parents reported having an issue with five of the hassles.
  • Parents who did not follow the AAP recommendations reported that the hassles were bigger problems.
  • Half of the parents reported at least one behavior that did not follow the AAP recommendations, including allowing their child to travel unbuckled and not consistently using a car seat.
  • For each additional hassle, the odds that their child was not consistently using a car seat increased by 14 percent, and there was an 11 percent increase in the odds that their child would be unrestrained while traveling.

According to a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, and senior author of the study, parents must make car safety a priority at all times. Parents are urged to plan ahead, give themselves extra time to avoid rushing, and communicate to their children that riding in a car seat or using a seat belt is a strict rule that cannot be broken.

What are the Appropriate Car Seats for Children as They Grow?

It is extremely important that children be secured in a car seat that is appropriate for their height, weight, and age. In addition to the following car seat recommendations, all children under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat because the front seat airbags can cause serious, even fatal injuries in young children.

  • Birth up to age two: Children should be securely buckled in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two, or until they reach the height or weight limits of the seat.
  • Age two up to at least age five: Children should be securely fastened in a front-facing car seat when they outgrow the rear-facing car seat.
  • Age five until the seat belt fits properly. Children should be securely restrained in a booster seat when they outgrow the front-facing car seat. The seat belt should lay across the upper thigh, not the stomach; and the shoulder belt should lay across the chest, not the neck.
  • Once the child outgrows the booster seat: When the child’s height, weight, or age exceeds the requirements, he or she can use a seat belt. The seat belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs and the chest. The recommended height for the proper seat belt fit in 57 inches tall.

How can I Protect My Child from a Car Wreck Injury?

There are a number of steps that parents can take to keep their children safe when riding in the car. The following safety tips can help prevent car accident injuries, whether the child is an in fact in a rear-facing car seat or a teenager who is restrained by a seat belt in the back seat:

  • Parents must always use the appropriate car seat for the child’s height, weight, and age.
  • Parents must make sure that the car seat is properly installed.
  • If the child is crying, screaming, or behaving in a way that could be distracting, the driver should pull over to a safe spot. Drivers should not try to console or comfort the child while driving, as this can take the driver’s attention away from the road and increase the risk of a serious distracted driving car accident.
  • If there are any sharp or dangerous objects in the vehicle, they should be placed in the glove compartment or removed from the car. These can cause serious injuries to the child and other occupants in the vehicle if they become airborne in the event of an accident.
  • Motorists must never drink and drive, particularly when driving with small children.
  • Parents and caregivers should not drive if they are feeling drowsy.

What Damages are Available if My Child is Injured in a Car Wreck?

Although the risk of suffering a serious injury in a car wreck is far lower when the child is properly secured in his or her car seat, children can still suffer a range of injuries in a serious car accident, including broken bones, whiplash, lacerations, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries, the injured victims may be eligible for the following damages:

  • Medical bills associated with the child’s injuries
  • Occupational and physical therapy necessary to recover from the injuries
  • Lost wages if the parents must stop working in order to care for their child
  • The child’s lost future earning capacity
  • Improvement to the home that may be necessary to make the home safer for the child
  • The family’s pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, which are meant to punish particularly egregious behavior

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Compensation for Children Injured in Car Wrecks

If your child was seriously injured in a car wreck, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We understand how devastating it is to see your child in pain. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will determine who is responsible for causing the car wreck and secure the maximum financial compensation for your child’s injuries. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.