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Good News: Fewer Children Dying in Car Crashes

After analyzing data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2002 to 2011, the CDC has found that the number of children dying in car crashes has fallen...

After analyzing data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2002 to 2011, the CDC has found that the number of children dying in car crashes has fallen 43 percent. That’s excellent news.

On the flip side however, researchers also discovered that one in three children who did die in a car crash during 2011, were not using a seat belt or child safety seat, suggesting that many more deaths could be prevented.

According to the report, more than 9,000 children age 12 and younger died in a car crash from 2002 to 2011.

"The good news is motor vehicle deaths decreased by 43 percent over the past decade for children age 12 and younger. The tragic news is still with that decrease, more than 9,000 kids were killed on the road in this period," CDC Director Thomas Frieden told reporters in a telephone news conference.

"Thousands of children are at risk on the road because they are not buckled up," he said.

According to the report, seat belt use increased from 88 percent in 2002 to 91 percent in 2011 among all children age 7 and under. The study also confirmed earlier findings that older children are less likely to be wearing seat belts than younger children.

To prevent future deaths from car crashes, Frieden said parents should make sure their children use appropriate-sized car seats, booster seats and seat belts on every trip.

The CDC recommends that children from birth to age 2 should be in a rear-facing car seat.

At around age 2, children should be in a forward-facing car seat until at least 5 years old, or until they exceed the height and weight limit for that seat.

Booster seats are recommended for children 5 and older until they can be securely fitted with a regular seat belt. That usually means the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest but not the neck.

Safekids.org offers 5 tips for making sure that your child is safe in their car seat.

  1. Make sure your child is in the appropriate seat. Check the label on your car seat for the manufacturer’s recommendations on age, height and weight.
  2. Make sure your child is sitting in the back seat until age at least 13.
  3. Make sure your child is facing the right direction. Infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing car seat until age 2. Once he or she outgrows the rear-facing seat, move your child into a forward-facing booster seat. Make sure to attach the top tether after you tighten and lock the seat belt or lower anchors.
  4. Perform the inch test. Once the car seat is installed and the harness is tightly buckled give it a good shake. A properly installed seat will not move more than an inch.
  5. Perform the pinch test. Make sure the harness is tightly buckled and coming from the correct slots (check car seat manual). Now, with the chest clip placed at armpit level, pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, you’re good to go.

It’s really good news that more children are surviving car crashes, but now’s not the time to ease up on making sure that your child is securely seated in the car. Also, be a good example. Studies have shown that children who have grown up with parents that use seat belts regularly tend to continue to automatically use a seat belt when they learn to drive.

Source: Julie Steenhuysen, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/04/us-usa-seatbelts-children-idUSBREA131BO20140204

http://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/documents/2013_parent_car_seat_checklist.pdf

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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