State laws concerning vehicle child restraints differ based on the age, weight, and height of a child; however, all states require small children to be placed in a child restraint while in a moving vehicle. Car seats that provide these children with better protection than the typical adult seat belt have become the norm, but there remains a group of children commonly referred to as the "Forgotten Child" that auto and policy makers have a long history of ignoring. Generally, these children are between the ages of 4-8 and weigh more than 50 pounds. Under most state laws, they are not required to use a child restraint, even though study after study shows that their bodies are not developed enough to be properly restrained by an adult seat belt.
Seat Belt Syndrome
Injuries occurring from poorly fitted seat belts for children are so common that the medical community has named them “Seat Belt Syndrome” injuries. The math makes sense. Seat belts for adults are designed to provide the proper amount of force to restrain their bodies in case of a crash. When a child is too small for the seat belt (i.e. the seat belt lies across their stomach or neck), the force is exerted directly on parts of their bodies not meant to withstand that level of force. This could result in damaging injuries, or even death.
Children’s injuries from improperly fitted seat belts can include the following:
- Ruptured Organs
- Internal Bleeding
- Spinal Injuries
- Broken Neck
A seat belt is meant to lie flat horizontally across the lap and flat diagonally across the chest. It is not meant to lie across the child’s stomach or neck. In an accident, if a child is not properly restrained by a seat belt, fatal injuries may follow. Because children do not fit adult seat belts and may slouch or move around in a way that makes an adult seat belt unsafe, a booster seat is necessary to help their body fit the seat belt’s design better and prevent injuries.
Booster Seats May Save Your Child’s Life
Research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has proven that using a belt-positioning booster seat may decrease injury risks to children ages four through eight by 45%, when compared to the use of seat belts alone. Other statistics show that only 20-38% of children who are between child seats and adult seat belts use a booster seat, although they have been available since 1979. If booster seats are so safe, why do so many people forego their use?
Messages to parents about which children would benefit from a booster seat over an adult seat belt have been inconsistent and vaguely communicated. Additionally, car manufacturers and the agency responsible for regulating them—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—have not been proactive in encouraging or mandating their use. This means that the change is up to you. Protect your children by using booster seats until they are developed enough to properly fit an adult seat belt. It just might save their life.
Have a Claim? Contact a Houston Truck Accident Attorney.
Despite a general public understanding of the dangers of young children using adult seat belts, the problem continues to go largely ignored. In 2011, the NHTSA's proposed seat belt rule changes omitted any mention of updating child restraint requirements. If your child was injured or killed in a traffic accident because of a lack of proper child restraints, contact a Houston truck accident lawyer to find out if you have a claim against the car manufacturer or another party. With over $1 billion recovered in just over 5 years, you can trust our expertise.
We offer free, no-obligation consultations. Contact Arnold & Itkin today for nationwide representation.