April 11, 2014

The Cost of a Car Seat Defect Was a Child’s Life

More than two years after a horrendous accident in which an infant lost her life because of a defective car seat, federal authorities are still diddling around in their investigation and the car seat manufacturer, Graco, continues to blame its customers.

The story was reported in sad detail on The Safety Record.

In August 2011, Samika Ramirez was driving with her 2-year-old, Leiana Marie Ramirez. When the car started to swerve, Ramirez pulled to the left side of the parkway and turned on her flashers. The divided road had only a narrow shoulder. She was about to call the auto club when another driver rear-ended her car.

It caught fire, and Ramirez tried frantically to unbuckle her daughter, but couldn’t release the harness of the Graco Nautilus child safety seat. With flames engulfing her car, passersby Ramirez pulled out of the car, and Leianna was burned alive.

More than a year later the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation. The results are still pending, but the the Graco Nautilus and 17 other models with buckles difficult to unlatch were recalled. Some consumers told NHTSA that they had to cut the belt webbing to release their children from the seat.

From the beginning, according to The Safety Record, Graco conceded that it was “keenly aware of the issue.” It had received more than 6,100 complaints about it, but said that the difficult of getting a kid out of a seat was merely “a consumer frustration and a consumer experience that Graco has been working to improve.”

So far, Graco hasn’t acknowledged that the defect caused a horrific death, not to NHTSA, not in a defect and noncompliance report, not in NHTSA’s Early Warning Reports.

In 2005, Graco paid a $4 million fine after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cited its long history of failing to report injuries and deaths. “Even now,” The Safety Record reports, “with the initial recall expanded and under a Special Order to answer all questions truthfully, Graco comforts its customers on its website:

Graco can assure you there have been no reported injuries as a result of the harness buckles used on Graco car seats. We want to stress that our car seats are safe and effective in restraining children. And, the safest way to transport a child is always in a car seat."

NHTSA wouldn’t comment to The Safety Record, but did confirm that the investigation remains open. Christine Spagnoli, an attorney representing the Ramirez family, says that Graco’s failure to acknowledge Leiana’s death undermines the recall, and calls it a consumer safety issue.

“[B]y saying something false to the public,” she said, “they’re trying to save money, at the expense of kids getting hurt.”

After NHTSA began investigating, Graco started blaming consumers, saying they allowed food, drink and bodily fluids to muck up the buckle apparatus, making it difficult for the button to release the metal tongues. Graco said they were just frustrated with the “perception” of difficulty, that they unlatched the harness incorrectly and that the complaint rate was approximately 1 in 1,000.

The feds weren’t buying it, and expressed concern that the malfunction of the quick-release mechanism created “an unreasonable safety condition in that the unlatching of the buckle and/or the extracting of the child would take an excessive amount of time, or may not be possible at all in a post-crash or other emergency situation where time is a critical factor.

"Additionally, First Responders or Good Samaritans, who are unfamiliar with the buckles operation or its sticking characteristics, also may not be able to unlatch the buckle.”

They called Graco’s claim that a child could be removed even when he or she was still buckled “unsustainable” in a post-crash situation.

The to-and-fro between the company and the investigators is as wearying as it is painfully slow. Consumers shopping for child car seats might want to keep in mind, as The Safety Record recounts, that Graco has a history of denial, foot-dragging and responsibility-shifting when it comes to the requirements of NHTSA’s early warning reporting, which compels manufacturers to supply access to recall information.

Graco is obligated to report “any claim against and received by the manufacturer. Claims are merely requests or demands for relief related to a crash, the failure of a component or system, or a fire originating in or from a vehicle. These claims are unverified allegations. They may help NHTSA identify a possible defect, but in and of themselves the claims are not evidence of a defect.”

To see the Graco car seat models that have been recalled, link here.

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August 9, 2013

More Cautions on Kids Locked in Hot Cars

It’s an annual warning some people may tire of hearing, but the problem of kids locked in hot cars endures. According to KidsandCars.org, an advocacy group, 38 youngsters die every year after being left in hot cars—that’s one every nine days.

At this writing, at least 24 children left in cars have died this year from heatstroke, according to data from the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences. And according to the National Highway and Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA), an unknown number of children are injured each year because they were left in hot cars. Among those injuries are permanent brain damage, blindness and hearing loss.

Often, heatstroke strikes after a playful child gets into an unlocked vehicle without a parent's knowledge. It strikes when a parent or caregiver who is not used to transporting a child as part of his or her daily routine forgets that there’s a sleeping infant in a rear-facing car seat in the back of the vehicle.

Even when the weather seems mild, the temperature inside a parked car can reach hazardous levels within 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. So if you plan to leave a kid in a car only for a minute while you run into the store, cleaners, neighbor’s house … don’t—children are more susceptible to heatstroke than adults because they overheat more easily; infants and children younger than 4 are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness.

Last year, we wrote about devices that purport to protect against leaving children in cars, but that were found to be less than effective.

Much better to inform yourself about measures you should take regularly to ensure tragedy doesn’t happen to you. Link here for 13 safety tips about keeping your kids safe from overheated cars. For more information about kids and heatstroke, visit this page from Safe Kids Worldwide.

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August 2, 2013

Getting Tough on Texting While Driving

Some people are bonded more closely to their smartphones than they are to other people. Sometimes, these relationships are more helpful than harmful or annoying, but when it comes to driving, it’s never a good idea to text when you’re behind the wheel.

It’s essential that parents ensure their teenagers aren’t doing it, either.

We first broached this subject more than three years ago, but with the boom in texters and texting opportunities, the problem endures.

In a discussion posted on KevinMd.com, pediatrician Claire McCarthy from Boston Children’s Hospital states that “I’m not big on spying on teens generally. I think that privacy is important. And by the time they are teens, … we need to let them learn to be independent and make choices without us.

“That said, if you have a teen who drives, there’s some spying I suggest: … check to see when your teen is texting. More specifically: Check to see if he’s doing it while he’s driving.”

Although you might not be able to see the content of texts on your online account, you can review every call or text made. And that’s the point—McCarthy isn’t interested in reading texts, just knowing when they’re happening.

Even if you don’t know exactly when your child is driving, you might be able to detect patterns, and if the child knows you’re checking, that can serve as a deterrent in itself.

McCarthy refers to a study in the journal Pediatrics that found that half of U.S. teens 16 and older reported texting while driving in the previous 30 days. “To be fair to teens,” McCarthy makes clear, “we adults aren’t setting much of an example: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of adults text while they drive.”

The study also found that teens who text while driving also are more likely to do other risky things while driving–fail to use seat belts, drive with someone who has been drinking alcohol or drive drunk themselves.

So, like so many parent-child lessons, it comes down to role-modeling. If you want your child to eat healthfully, follow a healthful diet yourself. If you want your child to read more and watch TV less, read more yourself. If you don’t want your child to text while driving, don’t you do it.

As McCarthy reminds, the teen brain is not the same as the adult brain, and because of that “under construction” status, behavior that comes more easily to you proves more difficult for a kid. (See our blog, “Teen Injuries in Auto Accidents: Sense of Invincibility May Cause Car Crashes.”)

Teens, as McCarthy says, “are wired to think that disaster will happen to someone else. Their brains are still developing, and the last part to mature is the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls our impulses and gives us some common sense. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s good that adolescents are willing to take risks; as you start out in life, it’s good not to be afraid of your shadow. But that risk-taking can sometimes play out badly–and often does, when they text and drive.”

Set rules for safe driving, McCarthy says, and enforce them. Follow them yourself.

If you do find out that your teen has been texting while driving, impose consequences. “At a minimum,” McCarthy advises, “there should be a loss of driving privileges. Driving truly should be a privilege, not a right–teens need to understand really clearly how their lives, and the lives of those around them, can be on the line every time they drive.”

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November 9, 2012

Older Kids Need to Use Booster Seats in Cars

Compelling evidence was presented last month at an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference that booster seats can save lives for kids in cars until they've reached close to adult stature (4 feet 9 inches tall).

As reported on MedPageToday, states that implemented booster seat laws recorded a decline in serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes for children 4 to 8 years old. States that lacked such regulations saw no changes in the same study period.

Although the study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and therefore is considered preliminary, it’s hardly the first to confirm the wisdom of strapping children into booster seats. But it also supports the idea of using the seats for older children.

The AAP recommends that children be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach 4 feet, 9 inches in height. Usually, that’s between the ages of 8 and 12.

There is no federal effort to standardize booster-seat laws.

In the 10-year study, “Booster Seat Laws Reduce Motor Vehicle Fatalities and Injury,” there were 9,848 fatalities and incapacitating injuries in children ages 4 to 8. The rate of death and incapacitating injuries declined 20 percent for children 4 to 6 in states with booster seat laws, and 33 percent for kids 7 to 8. Children 4 to 6 with no or improper restraint were twice as likely to suffer death or an incapacitating injury, and members of the older group were four times as likely compared with properly boostered kids.

Children 4 to 6 who were restrained only by a lap/shoulder belt were 20 percent likelier to suffer death or an incapacitating injury, and 70 percent likelier if they were 7 or 8.

According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association:

  • All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria.

  • Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia require booster seats or other appropriate devices for children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to use an adult seat belt safely.

  • The only states lacking booster seat laws are Florida and South Dakota.

  • Five states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York) have seat belt requirements for school buses. Texas requires them on buses purchased after September 2010.

To find out more about the laws in your state, link here. For information about car seats and installation tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site, and our post about rear-facing seats.

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November 3, 2011

When Is It Safe for a Child to Graduate from a Car Seat?

Later than you might think, according to this guest blog from Beckley Mason, which explores important new safety developments in car seats:

Out here in California, a law was recently (and at long last) passed that raises the size and age requirements children must reach before they can leave their safety car seats. California joins Maryland and about 30 other states in requiring that children be eight years old or at least 4’9’’ (which ever comes first).

While the law may not be popular with kids eagerly awaiting the day they can sit like an adult, it’s an important step to keep kids safe. Even with advances in technology and awareness of child seat safety fairly high, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children between ages 3 to 14.

The reason that California, which was once the leader in child safety seat laws, fell so behind the times is that former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger twice vetoed similar laws. Schwarzenegger claimed that he would rather spend state money promoting education for parents on how to best use car seats than pass another difficult to enforce law. While it’s difficult to agree with his decision to veto, his reasoning does carry more than a bit of logic. In a state without our budget concerns this policy would be entirely indefensible, but research confirms that many parents all around the U.S. need more education on how to properly use booster and car seats to maximum effect.

In a groundbreaking year-long study of 79,000 car seats and their passengers, Safe Kids USA found that less than a third of all parents were both installing their car seats and strapping their children in properly. The primary issue was a failure to correctly use the top-most tethers that fully secure child seats during a crash. While at rest, these top tethers can seem superfluous, and often inspectors found that they were secured too lowly, or not at all. However when in a collision, the tethers are vital because they keep the passenger child’s head from moving dangerously during crashes.

The same study raised concerns that many parents who do their best to secure their children are not aware of the latest best practices for children of different heights and weights. New research doesn’t always reach the people who need to hear it, as in 2010, when American Academy of Pediatrics changed guidelines. The group now recommends that children under two years old ride in rear-facing seats. However a recent poll showed that barely a quarter of parents were aware of that fact. About three quarters of responding parents turned their kids around before year two, and 30 percent before year one.

It is at that young age that child seats are most vital to preventing serious injury. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), properly using a child safety seat decreases the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Even older, less vulnerable children are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a booster seat that ensures the seatbelt fits across the chest instead of the collarbone or neck.

The NHTSA is trying to spread the latest word on child passenger safety by offering free educational resources to parents around the country. There are trained professionals at locations around the country that now offer 20-30 minute “courses” on properly installing car seats and their strapping in their passengers.

You can find a location near you by clicking over to the NHTSA website and searching by state or zipcode. It’s a great opportunity to get the latest information and training to make sure you keep your precious cargo safe.

Beckley Mason writes a Bay Area street safety blog for GJEL Accident Attorneys.

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May 19, 2011

May Flowers & Motorcycle Accident Safety Awareness

The following is a guest blog submitted by Michigan Motorcycle Accident Attorney Steven Gursten.

Finally, the sun is starting to show itself, which means more bikers on the roads. And since May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, here are a couple points about safe operation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has taken several steps to encourage drivers and motorcyclists to more safely share the road with each other.

One key factor in reducing the extent of injuries and reducing the risk of fatality is helmet use.

Based on research out of the NHTSA, motorcycle helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008.

• Proper fitting motorcycle protective gear, including helmets, do not interfere with the rider’s vision or hearing.

Here are some quick tips for biker safety:

1. It should go without saying that you should never drink and drive.

Alcohol intoxication is responsible for 41 percent of all motorcycle fatal crash deaths in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2. Whether the law requires it or not, wear a motorcycle helmet.

About 59 percent of motorcycle riders killed in 2007 were not wearing crash helmets.

3. Always ride defensively.

About 75% of all motorcycle accidents involve crashes with other motor vehicles; usually collisions with cars and trucks that fail to see and avoid the motorcycle operator.

4. You should never assume that other drivers will give you the right of way.

Overconfidence can cost you your life.

Operating a motorcycle takes great skill and coordination. Experience and safe driving practice are the best way to develop your ability to steer, brake and accelerate.

5. Never ride in the center of a traffic lane.

Following these simple tips might just be the difference between surviving a serious motorcycle collision and becoming the victim of a fatal motorcycle accident.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those Patrick Malone & Associates, PC. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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May 17, 2011

Pediatricians recommend rear-facing car seats until age 2

The American Academy of Pediatrics has new advice for parents about how to buckle their children in their cars. In a new policy published last month, the AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. In addition, it recommends that children ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4’9” and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Previously, the AAP advised parents to keep infants and toddlers rear-facing up to the limits of the car seat but also set a minimum of age 12 months and 20 pounds, which resulted in many parents turning the seat to face the front of the car when 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, lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

“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.”

While the death rate of children in motor vehicle crashes dropped by 45% between 1997 and 2009, it is still the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older. Counting 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.

Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics

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January 27, 2011

Cities safer for kids than suburbs, researcher says

The traditional family dream home -- a large house on a big lot in a quiet suburb -- may actually be more dangerous for children than many inner-city neighborhoods, according to a growing body of research.

Although many parents worry that city living could mean their children will be abducted or caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting, it is exceedingly rare for children to be harmed or murdered by strangers, says William Lucy, a University of Virginia urban planning professor who has led several studies on safe communities. The greatest risk to children, he notes, is car crashes, which are more likely to occur in the suburbs, where children spend more time in cars or playing next to busy roads. The ratio of traffic fatalities versus homicides by strangers is 13-1, he says.

All of Lucy's studies on this subject indicate that lower-density areas are the most dangerous, while the safest communities, for the most part, are high-density cities. Not only do low-density communities have more traffic fatalities, they also are the most dangerous places for stranger homicides.

Mass school shootings most often occur in the suburbs, where the student population is less diverse, making it harder for some to fit in. Unfortunately, he notes, car crashes and schoolyard bullies, both of which usually involve older children, are not things parents often think of when they are first looking for a safe place to raise their young families.

Source: National Post

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January 26, 2011

Is Michelle Obama responsible for pedestrian injuries?

Two officials from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) blamed First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-obesity program for a small increase in pedestrian fatalities, then quickly backtracked after almost universal negative reaction to their remarks.

GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha told the Washington Examiner that “there is an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle].” Another GHSA spokesman, Jonathan Adkins, told a local radio station that the First Lady is “trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more. While that's good, it also increases our exposure to risk.”

In 2010, 1,891 road deaths were recorded in the U.S., an increase of seven, or 0.2%, bucking a longterm downward trend. Harsha noted that “many factors” could be responsible for the small uptick, including increased use of iPhones, mp3 players and other devices that make pedestrians less aware of oncoming traffic.

The GHSA officials’ remarks were universally criticized, prompting quick retractions. Harsha later claimed she was misquoted and that the GHSA "in no way opposes Ms. Obama's program." Adkins now says he “did not blame Mrs. Obama for the small uptick in pedestrian deaths but simply noted that programs such as Mrs. Obama's may be increasing the number and frequency of pedestrians and thus exposing them to more risk.”

Sources: Washington Examiner and TheAtlanticWire

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December 6, 2010

Rear-view cameras in cars may be mandated to protect kids from being backed over

The Department of Transportation plans to make rear-view cameras standard for all vehicles by 2014 to prevent children being backed over. Each year, hundreds of children are hospitalized after being hit by cars backing up, and every week at least 50 children are reportedly backed over by vehicles in the U.S.

The regulation, which was proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 10,000 pounds so that drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when the vehicle’s transmission is in reverse. NHTSA believes automobile manufacturers will install rear mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standards.

The cost of adding the cameras will probably be borne by consumers. According to NHTSA estimates, it will add as much as $200 to the price of a new car. If the law passes, it would be phased in over the next four years, starting with 10% of new cars sold by September 2012, 40% by September 2013 and 100% by September 2014.

The proposed rule was required by Congress as part of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007. Two-year-old Cameron Gulbransen, for whom the Act is named, was killed when his father accidentally backed over him in the family’s driveway.

NHTSA estimates that, on average, 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as a result of back-over crashes involving all vehicles. Children and the elderly are most affected, with approximately 44% of fatalities being children under 5 years of age.

Source: kidsandcars.org

Click here to view a press release with more information from the NHTSA about the proposed legislation.

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October 12, 2010

Florida child safety advocates ponder vehicle alarm law after death of infant in daycare van

Some child safety advocates in Florida are calling for special vehicle alarms following the death of a 2-year-old strapped and forgotten in her car seat for nearly 6 hours in the back of a Delray Beach daycare center van.

A few other states already have laws mandating that all vehicles from childcare providers that transport six or seven (depending on the state) or more passengers have a child safety alarm system that prompts the driver to inspect all seats before leaving. Mary Sachs, a state representative, said she will sponsor a bill next spring requiring the alarms in Florida.

The alarms work as follows: After the driver turns off the vehicle, an alarm goes off and continues to sound for one to four minutes, which forces the driver to walk to the back of the van to turn it off. If the driver ignores the alarm, an external car alarm sounds, thereby alerting others that the vehicle hasn’t been checked.

While no one keeps specific data on how many children die from being left in childcare center vehicles, dozens of children die after being left in cars every year. According to Jan Null, an adjunct professor of meterology at the University of San Francisco and author of “Hypothermia death of children in vehicles,” 49 children have died forgotten in cars so far this year.

The driver of the van was charged with negligent manslaughter and the owners of the day care lost their license after losing more than $200,000 in state funds following the incident.

Source: The Palm Beach Post

You'll find more information about deaths of children in vehicles from hypothermia here.

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September 21, 2010

Child safety seat inspections: Get one free this Saturday

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for children ages 3 and older, and one contributing factor is that nearly 75% of child car seats aren’t installed or used properly.

As part of its continuing mission to correct this situation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Assocation (NHTSA) established Child Passenger Safety Week, an annual campaign to bring public attention to the importance of properly securing children in appropriate child safety seats, booster seats or seat belts at all times.

This year, Child Passenger Safety Week runs from September 19 to 25, culminating on September 25 with “National Seat Check Saturday," when certified child passenger safety technicians will provide free advice and hands-on child safety seat inspections across the U.S.

Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws requiring that children be restrained in motor vehicles. According to the NHTSA, child restraints have saved a total of 8,959 lives over the past 30 years. And a recent NHTSA study indicated that in rollover crashes (which had the highest incidence rates of incapacitating injuries for children), the estimated incidence rate of incapacitating injuries among unrestrained children was almost three times that for restrained children. In near-side impacts, unrestrained children were eight times more likely to sustain incapacitating injuries than children restrained in child safety seats.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

Find out where to get your child’s safety seat or booster seat inspected here.

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September 16, 2010

Study supports mandatory booster seats in cars for children age 4-6

Many parents who want to ensure their young child’s safety in a car put them in booster seats. A recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics now confirms what these parents already suspected – namely, that using child safety seats can reduce injuries and deaths in an automobile crash. It also supports the introduction of upgraded child restraint laws for children older than 3.

The study is the first to look at injury rates before and after a state law on booster seats went into effect. In March 2005, the state of New York upgraded its child restraint law to apply to children age 4 to 6. Since the state already had a law mandating child restraints in cars for children age 3 and under, the study compared the percentage of new restraint users in the 4 to 6 group with those in the 3 and under group.

The study found that after the child restraint law was upgraded, the use of boosters increased from 29% to 50%, resulting in an 18% decrease in injuries to children age 4 to 6. Meanwhile, the rates of booster use and injuries in the group age 3 and under remained unchanged.

Child seat laws vary from state to state, though all states mandate restraints for children until they are 3. Child safety experts recommend that, regardless of state law, children under 57 inches (4’9”) should ride in an appropriate restraint until the car’s own seat belts fit safely and comfortably. They also recommend that children under 13 should always ride in the rear of the vehicle.

Source: Consumer Reports Safety Blog
You can view the original study here.

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September 2, 2010

Study examines benefits of school bus seat belts for kids

A soon-to-be-completed University of Alabama study of seat belts in school buses notes an increase in positive public perception concerning their installation and use, and growing acceptance among the students using them.

The study, which was commissioned by the state government after a school bus accident in Huntsville, Ala. killed four students and injured 30, assessed the impact of installing lap-shoulder seat belts on Alabama school buses. It includes a review of national experiences and trends, alterations needed in the buses if seat belt use is adopted, analysis of school bus crash data in the state, and a cost-benefit analysis. Detailed results will not be released until the study is completed later this year.

Federal law requires seat belts on small school buses (weighing less than 10,000 lbs.). However, larger buses, which make up about 80% of the nation’s school bus fleet, are governed by state, not federal, guidelines, and only a handful of states – California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas – require seat belts in school buses. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, an average of 19 school-age children die in crashes involving school buses each year.

The school buses used in the study were outfitted with four ceiling-mounted video cameras allowing the research team to gather data on the level of restraint use, review the percentage of students using the belts and the percentage of students using the belts properly, and investigate if using the belts keeps students from moving into the aisle and out of the protective compartment provided by the seats. The camera data will also reveal the benefit of having a bus aide to monitor students and will monitor time devoted to buckling at each stop.

The study is the first to assess the benefits of installing seat belts in school buses, and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Highway Safety Administration and other national agencies are awaiting final results to determine whether or not the adoption of seat belts in school buses should be instituted across the U.S.

Source: Some of the information in this post came from here.

You’ll find more information about the University of Alabama schoolbus seat-belt study here.

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May 4, 2009

Infant Car Seats Failed Safety Standard Tests

The Chicago Tribune uncovered federal safety test results of infant car seats that were never publicized or even made known to some of the infant-seat manufacturers, reported Chicago Tribune’s Patricia Callahan. In the frontal crash tests, a video showed the car seats flying off their bases, throwing baby dummies face-first into the back of the driver’s seat. The test reports also documented that almost half of the 66 seats that were tested in front crashes “either separated from their bases or exceeded injury limits.”

As a result of the Chicago Tribune’s investigations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered a thorough review of safety regulations for car seats and taken steps to make the safety test results more available to consumers. Before, parents could compare safety ratings for cars, but would have no way of comparing which car seats do better at protecting their babies. They would not have known that more expensive car seats are not necessarily safer, or that some smaller cars performed better than the larger ones in these collision tests.

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August 16, 2008

Teen Injuries in Auto Accidents: Sense of Invincibility May Cause Car Crashes

The most recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons has a study on teenagers' attitudes to trauma-related injuries from car crashes, showing that most of them have a "sense of invincibility and focus on fate rather than choice."

These attitudes are dangerous because, while everyone knows about the impact of drugs and alcohol on people's behavior, false beliefs can often be just as harmful as drinking too much. From the article:

researchers say existing injury prevention initiatives often fall short of countering flawed beliefs and must better demonstrate - especially to teens - how and why their young age puts them at greater risk for injury.

"Students need to comprehend that it is lack of judgment, not only lack of skill, that increases the risk of injury to one's self and others. 'Not wanting something bad to happen' is simply not enough," said Najma Ahmed, MD, PhD, FACS, assistant trauma director, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto. "In addition to giving teens the knowledge and teaching them the technical skills, injury prevention programs must also address teens' attitudes about being immune to illness and death as a means of changing high-risk behaviors, such as driving while impaired."

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November 29, 2007

Study Shows that All-Terrain Vehicles are Highly Risky for Children

A new study from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas Children's Hospital shows that all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) pose a significant risk to children, according to the lead doctor involved in the research. An ATV is defined as any motorized vehicle with four low-pressure tires, handlebars for steering and control and a seat meant to be straddled by the operator.

The doctors studied 500 minors who came to the Children's Hospital over a period of eight years, all of whom were involved in ATV accidents. Of these five hundred, there were six fatalities (not counting those who died at the accident site, rather than at the hospital). More common were long-term disabilities and severe injuries.

The National Safety Council has a list of recommendations for ATV safety.
Among these are restrictions regarding age and engine size, as well as a stern warning against multiple riders in an ATV. Another good resource is the ATV Safety Institute.

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August 14, 2007

Car Seats: Using Them Correctly

Everyone knows small children should be in car seats, but many people forget one important detail: the car seats should be correctly installed, or their effectiveness diminishes greatly.

The police department in Roanoke, Virginia recently offered inspections of car seats, with the aid of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Such inspection services are becoming more common as people begin to be aware of the importance of not only using car seats, but using them correctly.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind about car seats:

-Reading all the instructions in the car seat manual is a must.

-Be careful that your child is not too big or too small for the seat. Do not put a newborn baby in a seat meant for larger children. It can also be dangerous to squeeze a child into a seat that is too small.

-Booster seats and combination seats are available for older children, who may be too small for regular adult seat belts until they are as old as eight.

-If your child is less than 1 year old and weighs less than 20 pounds, do not put him or her in a seat facing forward.

Other articles and resources to look at for information:

Safe Kids Worldwide: Preventing Injuries to Children in Motor Vehicle Crashes

Most car seats are used incorrectly

Four out of ten kids use car booster seats

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August 4, 2007

Virginia Tightens Car Seat and Cell Phone Laws

Virginia has passed stricter regulatory measures regarding children in cars. Starting on July 1st 2007, all children eight and younger must be secured by a child restraint device. Previously the law had only applied to children five and younger.

Furthermore, Virginia has banned drivers under 18 from using telecommunications devices, including cell phones, while driving.

More about this legislation can be found at eMaxHealth.

The ban on minors using cell phones is in keeping with laws in other states restricting cell phone use in cars and is much more lenient than many of them--for instance, an Oklahoma legislator wants mandatory jail sentencing for all crashes related to cellphone talk, as reported in the Ada Evening News.

The requirement that eight-year-olds be in special child restraints while in cars seems draconian at first glance. The silver lining is that it indicates an increased attention to car safety for children.

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August 1, 2007

$10.4 million verdict in Montana against Evenflo

A jury in Montana returned with a $10.4 million verdict against a car-seat manufacturing company named Evenflo Co. Inc., holding that Evenflo was liable in the death of a four-and-a-half-month-old infant in 2000. The baby was in one of Evenflo's car-seats at the time of its death in a car accident.

Details of the case can be found in the Kansas City Business Journal or the Chicago Tribune.

The important facts to take away from this case are the following: firstly, that energy-absorbent foam padding can be vital to car-seat safety, especially around the child's head. Secondly, the hooks that hold the car-seat in place must be sturdy and not prone to breaking off, as the Evenflo hooks were.

Evenflo continues to deny liability and will appeal the ruling, but whatever the outcome, these general concepts about car-seats may be helpful to keep in mind.

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July 27, 2007

Small Children in Hot Cars

Leaving a small child in a hot car for a long period of time can be dangerous to his or her health, and possibly even fatal. The Kalamazoo Gazettehas some details on this topic.

This has been an area of growing concern for parents and child safety advocates. It is important not to become overly paranoid about it, as 340 children have died in this manner in the last decade--a disturbing number to be sure, but hardly a cause for the sort of hysteria that safety issues sometimes generate.

Yet awareness about the issue is nevertheless important. Parents should not leave their children locked in a car unless some emergency absolutely requires it. This is especially true in the hot summer months.

The Chambersburg Public Opinion has more details on these dangers, including statistics and suggestions. For instance, remember that children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults', that cars heat up much faster than you might think (even with the windows down) and that it is important to take a few seconds to check the back of the car before walking away from it. The Houston Chronicle has a good description of how such tragedies can happen even to children with loving, caring parents--one moment of forgetfulness is all that is required.

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