February 10, 2005
Methodist Rehabilitation Center reminds parents to buckle up loved ones during National Child Passenger Safety Week
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON—Show your kids how much you love them this Valentine’s Day by making sure they are correctly buckled up in your car, truck or SUV.
That’s the message behind the Feb. 13-19 celebration of National Child Passenger Safety Week, and it’s one parents should take to heart, says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program.
“I can think of no better way to prove you care than to make sure your child is properly restrained while riding in a motor vehicle,” she said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children ages 2 to 14.
One reason is that children are particularly vulnerable to injury when left unrestrained, said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director of Methodist.
“Children’s bodies are different than adults, and they need special protection when traveling in motor vehicles,” he said. “Their skulls are more fragile, their heads are proportionately larger, their rib cages are thinner and they are not nearly as tall.”
Vohra said the key to keeping kids safe is to put them in the proper restraining device for their age and size. That means child safety seats for infants and toddlers and booster seats and/or seat belts for older kids.
“Children who should be riding in a booster seat and do so are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car wreck than children who only wear a seat belt,” he said. “Yet only 10 to 20 percent of the 4- to 8-year-olds who should be riding in booster seats actually use them.”
Vohra said another problem is parents often use child safety seats incorrectly. “It is estimated that between 80 to 90 percent of child safety seats aren’t properly installed,” he said.
Fairburn said all children age 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat. She recommends that parents choose from the following safety restraints based on a child’s age and size.
- Infant Seats. Infant seats are designed for babies from birth until at least 20 pounds. They must ride facing the rear of the car in their safety seats until they are big enough 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 four years of age.
- Booster Seats. These seats are used for children 4 to 8 years old and up to 4 feet 9 inches tall. The seat raises them up so that an adult safety belt fits over their chests and bellies properly – and protects them in the event of a crash.
- Safety Belts. Use safety belts in the back seat for children age 8 or older or taller than 4 feet 9 inches. All children age 12 or younger should ride in the back seat. For a safety belt to properly fit, the lap belt should be snug across the upper thighs and the shoulder strap should cross over the shoulder and across the chest.
“People buy car seats to protect their children, but often don’t realize that an improperly installed seat or the wrong seat for their age won’t protect their child in a crash,” Fairburn said. “We recommend parents carefully follow instructions and always get the safety seat checked by a car seat technician.”
Each year an estimated 500,000 people sustain brain and spinal cord injuries in the United States. The most frequent causes of these injuries are automobile crashes and children and teens are at high risk for these devastating injuries, many of which are preventable.
The Think First program is aimed at young children and teenagers and tries to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on automobile, bicycle, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety.