January 26, 2004
Methodist Rehabilitation Center warns parents of common driving mistakes
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—As a part of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program, physicians and staff at the Jackson hospital are reminding parents and caregivers to think first about driving safety.
Lauren Fairburn, coordinator for Think First, says to make sure children ride in an age-appropriate child safety seat and to have it checked by a certified car seat technician.
“Studies show that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 2 to 14,” says Fairburn.
“Over 80 percent of children are incorrectly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle,” said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “Wearing a seatbelt properly can reduce the risk of serious injury by as much as 50 percent.”
Fairburn recommends that children age 12 and under always ride in the back seat in one of the following types of seats:
- Infant Seats. Infant seats are designed for babies from birth until at least age 1 or 20 pounds. Infants should ride in rear facing safety seats with harness straps at or below shoulder level until they are at the appropriate size and age to move to convertible safety seats.
- Convertible Safety Seats. These seats convert from rear-facing for infants to forward-facing for toddlers weighing at least 20 pounds. Children should remain in a forward-facing seat from 20 pounds until they reach approximately 40 pounds and 4 years of age.
- Booster Seats. These seats are used as a transition to safety belts for children 4 to 8 years old. Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.
- Safety Belts. When a child is over 8 years old and 4 foot 9 inches, they can be moved to an adult safety belt. To secure a safety belt properly, the lap belt should fit snugly and properly across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross over the shoulder and across the chest. All children should ride in the back seat until age 12.
Fairburn says that there are other safety concerns to consider while driving and common dangers to avoid behind the wheel.
“A car is not the place to make up for lost time,” says Fairburn, “Cell phone calls, applying make-up or writing down appointments are huge distractions that interfere with safe driving.”
Other safe driving tips:
- Install cargo barriers in SUVs, minivans or wagons with an exposed luggage area. Many people have been injured from flying luggage or other objects in the car during a collision.
- Never take children out of their car seat while moving. You never know when crashes will happen and a child is safest in a car seat.
- Never ride in the back of a pickup. A hard turn, swerving or slamming on brakes could easily send someone flying out of the back truck bed.
- Never leave children unattended in a car.
- Always lock the car door when you are at home. Secure the keys in a safe place out of the reach of children.
- Never drive while drowsy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly 71,000 injuries occur every year from driver fatigue.
- Plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
The Think First program at Methodist Rehab tries to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety. Think First speakers volunteer their time to encourage others to wear safety belts when driving, helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles and to think about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation.