Car accidents are one of the leading causes of child injuries and fatalities. They are also the leading cause acquired disabilities such as brain injuries and paralysis in children across the country. Approximately 250,000 children are injured every year in car accidents, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA). However, recent reports have shown, and most plaintiffs' personal injury attorneys would agree, that proper use of restraints like seatbelts and car seats can contribute to significantly reducing the number of fatalities and injuries that occur on an annual basis.
Fortunately, there actually appears to be a marked increase in the trend towards wearing seatbelts. In fact, the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) Controlled Intersection Study found that "restraint use for all children from birth to 7 years old increased significantly from 89 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2011." Another major finding from the report was that rear car seat placement for children between the ages of 4 and 7 also increased significantly, from 89 percent in 2010 to 92 percent in 2011.
Still, as these things often go, the news disseminated by the report was not all positive. Researchers also found that "among occupants 8 and older, seat belt use in front seats continued to be lower among 16- to 24-year-olds than other age groups." Even more disheartening was the fact that the odds that a child sitting in the front passenger seat of a vehicle was wearing a seatbelt decreased even more if the child was male or black.
This NOPUS report with 2011 statistics was just released and distributed last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The report's findings seem to suggest that increased restraint use may be almost direct correlated to a decrease in the amount of fatalities and major injuries that result from car crashes. Various things may account for this increase in restraint use, particularly police enforcement and the recent spate of laws passed nation-wide that enacted harsher penalties for vehicle occupants found to be unrestrained when pulled over during traffic stops. Car accident attorneys recognize the importance of vigilantly keeping an eye out for the advent of more and similar legislation, and in the meantime carefully caution motorists about the importance of using seatbelts and car seats with young and older children alike.
The use of seatbelts and safety seats is particularly significant because an unrestrained child has all the tools necessary to serve as a fatal distraction to the driver of the vehicle, as well as other occupants. When an accident results, the child's failure to wear a seat belt greatly increases the likelihood that a child harmed in an accident will sustain dramatically more serious injuries, or even death.
Are you doing all you can to ensure the safety of your child when traveling?
Below are some common child safety seat installation mistakes, as delineated at seatcheckorg.com:
• Not using the right child safety seats for a child's size and age;
• Not placing the child safety seat in the correct direction;
• Incorrect installation of the child safety seat in relation to the vehicle's air bags;
• Not securing or tightening the child safety seat's harness and crotch straps;
• Not making sure the vehicle's seat belts fit properly across the child when using a booster seat; and
• Using a defective or broken child safety seat.
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