Carseat and vehicle owner’s manuals can be confusing, at best. Policy statements from injury prevention experts can be just as bad. If you don’t follow safest practice guidelines, is your child really unsafe? Here’s what we know with no question, based on compelling statistics.
- Most kids who die in motor vehicle crashes are unrestrained. Simply using a child safety seat that is appropriate for your child according to the age, weight and height ranges on the labels is a huge reduction in risk.
- Installing and using that child seat correctly in the back seat is another big reduction in risk. If you can’t figure out how to install or use it right, seek help! Online or in person.
- Many fatalities involve impaired and distracted drivers. You can’t always control the other driver, but you can make sure you are unimpaired and not distracted with cellphones, food or other things that take your concentration off the road. That also is a big reduction in risk.
Those factors alone account for a very large percentage of children killed in motor vehicle crashes. If parents could just address those issues, we would have many less fatalities each year and motor vehicle crashes would far below their current rank as the #1 killer of kids 3-14 years old.
There are many other factors that certainly affect the safety of kids in cars, but probably to a lesser degree. For example, what rear seating position to use, what brand/model of carseat or vehicle to buy, when to transition from one type of seat to the next, if/when to discontinue use of the LATCH system and countless other factors. All these factors are important, but in the grand scheme of things, likely to be far less important than the “Big Three” factors above when it comes to saving the lives of children.
For parents who want to keep their kids as safe as possible, Kecia has great advice about understanding the newest policy guidelines. While we strongly suggest that you thoroughly read and understand your owner’s manuals and also the best practice guidelines from agencies like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the NHTSA, Safe Kids USA and others, we recognize that many parents don’t have the time or just become frustrated with all the confusion. Some probably think these guidelines are made only to impose new restrictions on parents or to sell more carseats. For those, just following the three suggestions above will reduce the risk from riding in a car to well below many other common risks to your child.
Stay tuned for a new blog regarding common misconceptions and criticisms of the new guidelines!