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What’s the Greatest Risk to Teens’ Safety?


My teen driving - eek!If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that car crashes are the leading safety hazard for young children. But what is the greatest safety risk for teens? Drugs? Alcohol? Bullying?

Nope, it’s still cars, and most people don’t know it.

A recent survey by the National Safety Council found that 76 percent of parents weren’t aware that car crashes are the main threat to teens’ safety, and even fewer enforce habits that would help to prevent crashes. Lack of experience and poor decision-making skills lead to crashes, especially in a teen’s first year of driving.

According to the NSC, the top five risks regarding teen driving are:

  • Impaired driving. In 2011, one million teens drove after drinking.
  • Driving at night. Teens are nearly twice as likely to have a fatal crash after dark.
  • Driving with young passengers (siblings or friends). The fatal crash risk increases 44 percent when other young people are in the car.
  • A lack of practice. NHTSA recommends that parents spend at least 50 hours supervising their teens’ driving, but 44 percent don’t.
  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving, including phone use, is responsible for 58 percent of teenage crashes.

How can you make your teens safer? It’s not always easy or possible to control what a teenager does, but supervision, discussing risks, and enforcing rules can go a long way. Remember to set a good example by practicing safe driving yourself. If you need more guidance, NHTSA and SafeKids have teen driving resources.

You can also check out our recommendations for relatively inexpensive cars that would make good choices for teens. A safe car doesn’t mean you or your teen can be more lax, but it might help if they (or someone else) make a bad decision.

On Pace for a Deadly Year


Crash SceneWe’ve seen a steady decline in traffic deaths over the past couple decades, but according to a recent study by the National Safety Council, 2015 might be different. In the first half of the year, traffic deaths were up 14% compared to the same period in 2014, and serious injuries were up 30%. If things continue at this pace, 2015 will be the deadliest driving year since 2007.

What accounts for this increase in deaths and injuries? More driving.

A stronger economy, lower unemployment, and lower gas prices mean that more people are able to drive more miles for business and pleasure. The increased traffic leads to increased opportunities for crashes.

The NSC reminds people to take steps to increase safety, such as buckling up on every trip, using designated drivers, getting plenty of sleep, and never using cell phones. It probably goes without saying, but part of “buckling up” should include using proper child restraints, too.

This study might seem like grim news, but it’s important to remember how far vehicle safety has come in the past few decades, and even in the past few years. Advances in technology like air bags, blind spot avoidance systems, and back-up cameras mean that cars today are safer than they’ve ever been. Some good defensive driving and proper restraints can help make sure you and your family are as safe as possible this holiday season.

Rear-Facing Head Injuries: RF is Still Safer


ERF - Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65A story from the Washington Post referenced  a study in the current issue of the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention that found that rear-facing children have some risk for head injuries in rear-end crashes.  When a car is rear-ended, a rear-facing car seat is likely to rotate toward the back of the car, which could throw a child’s head into the headrest or seatback. Does this spell bad news for rear-facing in general? Absolutely not.

While the study did find that children’s heads might strike the seatback/headrest in a severe rear-end crash, there are some things to keep in mind.

  • Rear-facing is still safer than forward-facing. Head, neck, spine, and leg injuries are more likely when forward-facing, so children should stay rear-facing as long as possible.
  • Severe rear-end crashes are rare. Rear-end crashes account for only around 5% of crashes with fatal injuries, according to the latest IIHS data.
  • Overall, rear-end crashes account for about 25% of all crashes, but most of these are not severe or fatal.  This study tested seats at 30 mph, which might seem slow, but keep in mind that most rear-end crashes actually happen at much lower speeds than frontal crashes, usually after some amount of braking has occurred.
  • The study tested only three seats (using three different installation methods for each one) in one vehicle model, a 2012 Toyota Camry rear seat. Although we can take away some information from this study, it is not exhaustive.
  •  Severe and fatal injuries to rear-facing children are much less likely than to forward-facing children.  According to NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge quoted by the Post, “Real-world crash data does not indicate children in rear-facing car seats are being injured by contacting the seat on rebound.

Parents are often worried about the possibility that their rear-facing children might strike the seatback in a rear-end crash or due to the rebound that occurs after the initial impact in a frontal crash. Those concerns aren’t necessarily unwarranted, but they need to be kept in perspective: In real-life scenarios, rear-facing children are far safer than forward-facing ones.

The study does raise a good argument for better rebound control on car seats. Rear-tethers (uncommon on USA seats) and anti-rebound bars can do a lot to keep seats from rotating too much toward the back of the car. Even without these features rear-facing seats are very safe, but perhaps research like this will lead manufacturers to include anti-rebound technology. (And maybe it will encourage the NHTSA to update federal standards in the USA.)  Canada implemented a limitation for rebound on rear-facing carseats in 2012.

In the meantime, keep those kiddos rear-facing. It’s still the best way to ride.  If your rear-facing carseat does not have an anti-rebound feature, then also consider removing any hard objects attached to the vehicle seat or head restraint.  These include video monitors, mirrors with hard surfaces or toys that are heavy or have sharp edges.

Throwback Thursday: Baby-Sitters Club


IMG_4782Ah, The Baby-Sitters Club. Some of our readers may be too young to remember the series, and some may be too old, but I have a feeling a good chunk of you read these books when you were little. I bet some of you even started your own babysitting club with your friends. I bet some of you wished you could be as stylish as Claudia or as free-spirited as Dawn. Admit it.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog post about the books, and ever since then I’ve been obsessing over Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Dawn, the fictitious girls I hung out with in middle school.

I read my first Baby-Sitters Club book toward the end of fifth grade and was immediately hooked. The series was still relatively new back then, so I read all of the books that existed until that point, then stalked the bookstore waiting for new releases, begging my mom to buy them as soon as they hit the shelves.

I moved after that school year, which meant a new school in sixth grade. Because I had a lot of free time (for some reason I had two study halls) and no new friends, I read voraciously. That year my genre of choice was realistic fiction about abused children and kids with terminal diseases, but in between those depressing books, The Baby-Sitters Club was always there. 

I also went to new schools in both seventh and eighth grades, and the girls from the Baby-Sitters Club kept me company, at least on the page, while I struggled with my new environments. By that point I was kind of jealous of those girls at Stoneybrook Middle School, mainly because they didn’t keep getting uprooted.

At some point I outgrew The Baby-Sitters Club. I can’t quite say when, but judging from the release dates on Wikipedia, it must have been sometime toward the end of eighth grade. (I had no idea that new books continued to be published for another 10 years after I stopped reading.)

Anyway, because The Baby-Sitters Club had been on my mind so much, I inevitably wound up on eBay, where I purchased books 1-25 plus the first Super Special for about $30, which is way less than I paid for them back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I had planned on reading the Super Special and maybe one of the other books, then putting them away until my daughter was ready for them. But once I realized I could knock out a book in about an hour, I decided I might as well re-read all of them. So far I’ve only read books 1-6 plus the Super Special where they all go on a cruise to the Caribbean and then to Disney World…back when Disney World only had two parks and one of them was called EPCOT Center.

It’s funny to see how much has changed since I was in middle school. The biggest, of course, is the idea that so many people would hire 12-year-olds to babysit their children. I mean, yeah, they were really responsible and resourceful, but that just seems so young now. (I’m not really sure why, especially since I babysat when I was 12 and did a pretty good job, thanks largely to the tips I received from The Baby-Sitters Club books.)

That was also back in the day before cell phones, when you’d have to call the restaurant or the theater to get in touch with parents if something went wrong. That’s why Claudia got to be the vice-president of the club: She had her very own phone in her room!

It was also a time when you could buy snacks at the movie theater for a dollar. (Stacey was shocked to find that a soda and popcorn cost $1.25 in New York City—so much more than she paid in little Stoneybrook, Connecticut.)

Finally in Book 6 (Kristy’s Big Day), I encountered some Child-Passenger-Safety moments. One was mostly good: Some of Kristy’s relatives arrive, and she goes to the car to unfasten “about a million straps and buckles” to remove a 1-year-old from her car seat (probably not rear-facing, but still.) Another was not so good: Kristy’s grandma drives Kristy, Stacey, and three kids (ages 8, 9, and 10) downtown. The 9-year-old rides up front in the center, certainly in a lap-only belt, if anything at all. There’s no mention of booster seats for the others. But such was life back in 1987.

So, let’s talk about it. Did you have a babysitting notebook to keep track of jobs? Did you start stashing junk food all over your room like Claudia? Which characters did you like and dislike the most, and which were most like you? Do you still have your books? (And if so, can I have any beyond #25?)