When you get into a vehicle, pull the seatbelt snuggly around your waist, and hear the metallic “click”as the two pieces of the seatbelt securely snap together, what comes to your mind? Anything? This noise, this metallic “click”that is so soft it is barely audible, is the sound of your life potentially being saved in the event of a car accident. According to a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, this sound is one that approximately 216 children didn’t hear…and it cost them their lives (Copeland, 2014).
Despite the prevalence of safety campaigns, new research has found that one-third of children killed in car accidents in 2011 were not buckled up. That statistic in and of itself is surprising; however, what is even more shocking is the ethnic and racial disparities this research has revealed. Between 2009 and 2010, 26% of white children under the age of 12 who were killed in car accidents were unbuckled…for black and Hispanic children this percentage soared to nearly 50% (Copeland, 2014). The sharp differences between these groups aren’t fully understood; however, they may tie back to socio-economic status such as the ability to afford a car seat or education on the fact that a car seat is necessary even for older children.
These numbers are all especially troubling when one thinks that they not only represent the lives of children but each of these tragic deaths could have been prevented. In fact, the act of preventing these deaths would have been relatively simple.
One thing that we can do as a community is ensure that support in the form of education and financial assistance are available. Parents need to be educated on why having a car seat is vital to the safety of their child and how old or big their child needs to be before dispensing that car seat or booster seat. In addition, for families that are economically struggling, we need programs that help everyone gain access to car seats and booster seats.
In addition to simply raising awareness and educating the public of the necessity for children to be properly buckled up, additional legislation may be required. The CDC reports that “Tennessee and Wyoming are the only states that require a car seat or booster seat for children through age 8”(Copeland, 2014). One study that supports additional legislation was conducted in 2012 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined the impact of laws in 5 states that increased the car seat age to 7 or 8 years of age; the results of the study showed that car seat usage tripled and deaths and serious injuries dropped over 15% (Copeland, 2014).
In Missouri, there is no law requiring the use of a booster seat through the age of 8. However, this doesn’t mean a booster seat is unnecessary. At this point, it is up to parents to know when their child is ready for the “grown up”seat belt and to ensure their child is buckled up properly.
The CDC offers the following tips (Copeland, 2014):
- Use rear-facing car seats from birth to 2-years-old,
- Use forward-facing car seats from 2-years-old until (at least) 5-years-old.
- Use a booster seat from age 5 until the regular seat belt fits properly.
- Install car seats and booster seats properly according to the owner’s manual or get help from a certified Child Passenger Safety Tech.