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Protecting children in car accidents – New advice on car seats

May 24, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Recommendations published in April say children should now face backwards until two years old

Yesterday I blogged about the No. 1 cause of accidental death for children being car accidents, and the way children are positioned in the car is a huge part of that. As a lawyer who helps people injured in car accidents, my hardest cases emotionally involve young children, and especially pediatric traumatic brain injury cases. I’ve had some cases that 16 years later, still require serious medical intervention and attendant care from the auto insurance company. My NPR interview on WDET Detroit public radio involving the story of Corey Krontz, who suffered a serious brain injury at 5 years old and is now 23, is one such example.

That’s why I’m sharing today’s guest blog about protecting children in car accidents. This blog is written by Washington DC medical malpractice lawyer Patrick Malone.

Pat writes that according to new recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics, some parents will be surprised to learn about how children 2 years old and under should be buckled in their cars.

The Academy’s new policy that was published in April encourages parents to secure their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they reach the age or two, or alternatively, until they reach the height and weight thresholds for their seat. Further, the AAP advises that kids ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached a height of 4’9″ and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Prior to this advice, the Academy recommended that parents restrain infants and toddlers in the rear-facing position up to the limits of the car seat but also set a minimum of age 12 months and 20 pounds. This caused several parents to turn the seat to face the front of the vehicle once their child celebrated his or her first birthday.

“Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they’re necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, who took the role of lead author on the new policy statement and its technical report accompaniment.

“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” Durbin said. “For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.”

Despite the fact that the death rate of kids in motor vehicle crashes dropped by 45 percent between 1997 and 2009, it is still the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older. If you include children and teens up to age 21, there are more than 5,000 deaths each year. And for each death, about 18 children require hospitalization and another 400 need medical treatment.

Related information:

Child safety: Is your baby properly secured in the car seat?

Top 5 hazardous actions by teen drivers

Safe driving tips to avoid car accidents

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.

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