Age rule may grow for children in rear-facing car seats
Although the number of crash-related injuries treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center has decreased slightly since 2012, the number of deaths has spiked from zero to five in 2014. As a Level II Trauma Center, Cook Children’s Medical Center receives the most severe cases. Sadly, the children who are severely injured or killed from car accidents were not in a car seat.
Changes may be coming to the state’s child safety seat law.
Legislation was recently introduced that would update existing law to require children to be placed in a rear-facing safety seat until they are at least 2 years old or their weight/height exceeds the limit of the seat. Under current law, parents are required to keep their children in a rear-facing car seat until they turn 1 or weigh more than 40 pounds.
The intent of the Bill is to help protect thousands of young lives and allow standards to fall in line with recommendations set by the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car crashes are a leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14. From 2002 to 2011, about 9,000 children under the age of 12 died in car accidents, the agency’s statistics show. Correctly using a child safety seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.
“We know that car seats are working,” said Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention/Outreach coordinator for Cook Children’s Medical Center. “Research shows that a properly installed rear-facing car seat is five times safer and can dramatically reduce the risk of head, neck and spinal cord injury if your child is involved in a crash.”
Similar legislation is being considered in other states, including Wisconsin.
Opponents of these measures argue that enforcing updated child safety seat laws is difficult and would confuse parents who may think their child is too old or too tall to remain in a rear-facing safety seat. Fort Worth resident and parent Tiffany Morgan disagrees.
As a former pediatric trauma ICU nurse, Morgan saw the results of the worst car accidents come through the hospital: head injuries, including skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and other severe brain injuries, broken arms, broken legs and severed spines. For her, the tipping point came when there was loss of life.
“Seeing what I saw from an injury standpoint imprints the reality of the situation on you forever,” said Morgan, who is now a trauma nurse practitioner at Cook Children’s Medical Center. “You change the way you live. You have a different perspective on reality.”
She has decided to keep her children, June, 3½ years old and 37 inches tall, and Max, 19 months, in rear-facing car seats as long as she can, per AAP recommendations.
“Anything that can be done to protect our children from needless injury and death has my support,” Morgan said. “Most accidents happen within three blocks of a person’s destination. The key is securing children for what could be the worst accident imaginable. I made my decision based purely on what is safest for my children if they were ever to be involved in an accident. What if a guy T-bones us at 60 miles an hour? That’s what I worry about.”
Evans is a certified child passenger safety technician/instructor and teaches parents how to properly install and use car seats correctly at the Medical Center.
“If your child is injured in a car accident, there are no do-overs,” she said. “It’s important to keep your children rear-facing as long as possible to keep them protected and to reduce the risk of injury.”
Research has shown that riding rear-facing is the best way to take an impact during a crash, and countries such as Sweden have made it standard practice to keep children rear-facing until they are the age of 5, or weigh as much as 55 pounds.
The debate about rear-facing safety seats was not on the radar of Fort Worth resident Derrick Bledsoe. That all changed a year ago when he read an article about car seat safety practices in Sweden and other countries. For Bledsoe, a father of two toddlers, it was an eye-opening revelation.
“It was startling to me. I had never heard of that practice before,” he said. “That led me to start doing research on child physiology and development. The majority of wrecks happen from a front-end standpoint, so when a child is pushed back into a supportive seat rather than just a harness, it’s a no-brainer for me.”
Bledsoe plans to keep his daughters, Camilia, 20 months, and Victoria, 15 months, in rear-facing car seats until they reach the weight/height limit. He encourages parents to research the subject before formulating a final decision.
“If you turn kids around in a car too soon, it could cause awful if not fatal damage should an accident occur,” he said. “My job as a parent is to do what is best for my daughters. It’s my job to protect them. I’m doing this to keep them safe.”
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Every year children are rushed to the emergency room to be treated for car related injuries, many don't even involve traffic or another car. Some injuries occur without the car ever leaving the driveway. Here are some of the top dangers to be aware of and the key things you can do to help make your car safer for your kids. Learn more about car safety here. Learn more about safety and prevention here.