Traffic fatalities are on the rise, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which released its 2012 final crash data findings last month. According to the report, in 2012, there were a total of 33,561 traffic fatalities in the U.S. Perhaps most unsettling, however, is that the number of child traffic fatalities increased three percent in 2012, with 1,168 children killed in traffic accidents. In fact, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for children age 4 and children between the ages of 11 and 14. According to the NHTSA, an average of three children 14 and younger were killed and 462 were injured every day in the United States in motor vehicle crashes during 2012.
One of the possible reasons for the increase in child traffic fatalities may be improper or inconsistent use of child restraint systems. The NHTSA points out that research has shown that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used in passenger cars, reduce the risk of fatal injuries to front-seat occupants age 5 and older by 45 percent and reduce the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light-truck occupants, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent.
Child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For passengers in light trucks, child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 58 percent for infants and 59 percent for toddlers.
During 2012, there were 4,888 passenger vehicle occupants age 14 or younger involved in a fatal crash and, among those who were fatally injured, 40 percent were unrestrained. There were 298 passenger fatalities among children age 4 and younger and, among those crashes where restraint use was known, 88 percent of the child fatalities were unrestrained.
The use of a proper child safety seat or seat belt can go a long way in preventing child traffic fatalities. Among children younger than 5 involved in a car accident, an estimated 284 lives were saved by restraint use. Of these 284 lives saved, 265 were due to the use of a child safety seat and 18 with due to the use of adult seat belt. If all children under 5 were properly restrained in the appropriate child safety seat, the NHTSA estimates that 342 lives (or an additional 58 lives) could have been saved in 2012.
Child Passenger Safety Tips
Drivers are reminded of the following safety measures to protect children while riding in a car or other motor vehicle:
- Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.
- Children 2 years or older who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat, should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed their car seat’s manufacturer.
- Children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
- When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder seat belt, with children younger than 13 years of age in the rear seat of the vehicle.
- Always wear your own seat belt to set a good example. In Illinois, all passengers – both back seat and front seat passengers – are required to use seat belts.
Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer
The Chicago auto accident lawyers at Ankin Law Office, LLC are committed to keeping motorists and passengers safe. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in an auto accident, we will advocate on your behalf for maximum financial recovery. Contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago auto accident lawyers.