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The Risks Faced By Unrestrained Children In Car Accidents

In every state, car seats are required for babies and children under a certain age or weight. In all but two states, booster seats are required for children who are not big enough to safely use adult restraint systems in vehicles. Only one state does not have some type of seat belt law requiring older children and teenagers use the safety restraint systems in their cars. Despite all of these laws, children are still being severely injured and even killed in auto accidents because they were not properly restrained in the vehicles. Unfortunately, this trend is highest among African American children, according to the results of a recent study.

The 2012 study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Toyota found that more than half of African American children who were involved in a fatal auto accident were not restrained in the vehicle. Also, car crashes are the number one cause of injury-related deaths among African American children younger than 14. Furthermore, African American and Hispanic parents were less likely to use car seats or seat belts for their children.

The reasons for this finding are complex. Some minority families may be unable to afford car or booster seats for children. They may also come from families who did not use seat belts and so it never becomes a tradition. They may also be more likely to drive older cars with improperly functioning restraint systems or that make proper installation of safety seats for children more difficult.

Whatever the reason, not having children properly restrained can lead to serious consequences as several recent cases around the country have shown.

In Georgia on July 11th, a mother who had five unrestrained children in the back of her minivan crashed into the back of a stopped car on the highway. Two of those children had to be taken by helicopter to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In Wisconsin on July 23rd, a mother rolled her Chevy Blazer off the highway into a ditch. The accident threw all three of her unrestrained children out of the vehicle, including her two-year old who was killed. Sadly, the mother had been cited at least twice previously for failure to use seat belts. In Tennessee, two women were arrested and faced criminal charges because they had caused an accident that killed a seven year old girl. The girl was not restrained in the vehicle and was thrown through the back window of the car upon impact.

As is clear from these cases, unrestrained children are more likely to be killed in an auto accident. According to Arizona officials, 80% of the children killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 in their state were not properly restrained. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also point out that proper restraints can reduce the risk of fatal injury for babies by 71% and for toddlers under the age of 5 by 54%.

While the study shows some groups are less likely than others to use child restraints in their vehicles, they are not the only ones failing to take steps to reduce the risks for their children. Using car seats, booster seats, and seat belts for children in cars appropriately is not just the law in most states; it is also the right thing to do.