safety for preschoolersSome good news in the world of health today: Children are dying much less in traffic accidents (US). And the downward trend is due to the widespread use of car seats and boosters. Bravo! A new government report discloses that child fatalities on the road have dropped a solid 43%. The downside is that some children are still not being buckled up, and many of these deaths, then, might have been prevented.

A report from the CDC looked at children under 12 from 2002-2011, and it showed a decline that hasn’t been at this low level since the 1940s. This age group generally makes up a small percentage of traffic fatalities anyway, but of course we all welcome any drop no matter to which group, but especially for our little tykes, the truly dependent and powerless. Teens and young adults, unfortunately (yet understandably) still make up the largest group of traffic deaths in the country.

Although the study was not actually designed to uncover the reason for the drop, experts believe that it does stem from the increased use of car seats and booster. A racial disparity, however, does seem to be at play, as almost 50% of black and Hispanic children involved in fatalities were not buckled up. This compared to only 25% Caucasian children. Experts again weigh in and suggest that income disparities may be a factor leading to the inability to purchase or install new seats.

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

Car seat installation essential to protect in car crashes

I speak from recent experience to say that parents really want to make sure they have new and excellently working child safety equipment, and also that their seat belts are working flawlessly. Proper seat installation is important too. I have personally witnessed a few shoddy installation jobs of car seats with some families I’ve met or known, mostly I gather due to the parents doing the installation themselves. I was flabbergasted by one such family that, as far as I could see, installed the seat based on ease and speed, more than on diligent application it seemed. Belts appeared loose, the car seat moved around on turning corners—really just shoddy installation all around. The parent, I believe, was just lucky that they were never in an accident, because I am sure that seat wouldn’t have help up.

We have gotten our car seats installed by the LAPD traffic division, through a service they provide the community. Yes we had to make an appointment, and the installation of each seat took a little time, but my gawd, isn’t it worth the time investment? We learned a lot from the officers, who not only install seats but educate parents while doing it. This is what we found out:

Child safety requires all precautions including seat orientation

Child safety requires necessary precautions including seat orientation

Outside of neglecting to buckle up, many child fatalities are from improperly installed seats. Loose seats move around on impact, and the child can be suffocated by expanding air bags, or crushed between the moving car seat and the passenger seat directly in front of it. When car seats are turned to face forward too early (infants are to face the rear of the car), again the child can be crushed or suffocated by the bags.

Parents may not know these mechanisms of death, and thus cannot conceptualize the importance of every belt tightening done during professional installation (and I can tell you it’s a lot). Police are often first responders to traffic accidents—they see the end result. If they tell me that’s the most common way children die in auto accidents…well I’ll take their word for it. No playing around with my precious cargo.

Accidents can be real bad—I know this firsthand from treating thousands of auto accident cases. But no need to put your child at greater risk, particularly in accidents not technically bad enough to harm the child if the car seat was installed properly. Believe me: taking the time to visit the local police station is worth it (you will have to find out who performs the service in your community). If you truly do not have this option, then please read and follow the installation instructions to the tee…and don’t throw it in while have a few brews with yer pal Gomer…focus, man, focus…these are your babies.

Okay, all in all, great job folks! Child fatalities in traffic accidents is way down—let’s keep up the great work and bring it down even more. Bravo again.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.