Holiday Warning: Buckle Up Your Children
For many members of the Emergency Department staff at Cook Children’s, this year's Thanksgiving holiday won’t be remembered for football and turkey. It will be about the lingering memories of the numerous children who came away with traumatic injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
Now with Christmas and New Year’s approaching, staff wants parents to know that they can prevent these injuries by taking a few precautions that could make the difference in life and death.
“I worked a few weeks ago on Thanksgiving in the ER. We had several traumas that day and night of kids who were in motor vehicle accidents,” said Debbie Wheeler, a Child Life specialist for the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s. “Unfortunately, we've seen children die. With other traumas, we’ve seen young kids live by the grace of being properly restrained in the correct car seat. I really want to encourage parents to travel safely this holiday season, especially for everyone in the vehicle to be buckled up appropriately. It is really sad to see a patient hurt and have injuries that could possibly have been prevented if they were in a car seat, a proper car seat, or a seat belt.”
With the holidays approaching, more people will be out on the road and that could cause for another night of worry for Cook Children’s Emergency Department and Trauma staff. AAA estimates 107.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, a 3.1 percent increase from last year.
Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Many of those deaths could be prevented if parents took the extra time to make sure their children were properly restrained.
Sharon Evans, Trauma/Injury Prevention outreach coordinator at Cook Children’s, says it’s extremely frustrating because she has seen wrecks where one child who was properly restrained live and the other child not buckled in dies.
“Honestly, it’s just so infuriating,” Evans said. “These accidents are totally preventable. It’s because the adults in the car aren’t doing something that could save their child’s life. I don’t think people think it can happen to them. But it can happen to anyone. It just breaks my heart because these are deaths that shouldn’t occur if people would just place their kid in the proper car seat and buckle them up with a seat belt."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.
“If your child is injured in a car accident, there are no do-overs,” Evans 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.”
Statistics show this is especially a problem for Hispanics in the community. Ninety percent of the ejections that have occurred since April 2015 were Hispanic.
“I think a lot of it has to do with our culture,” said Magdalena Santillan, Trauma Injury Prevention specialist at Cook Children’s. “These are people who love their kids and they want to hold their baby. A lot don’t want to hear their baby cry and so it’s easier to hold their baby in the car. They are showing love, but the consequences are too high. This can be a deadly mistake.”
Texas law states that “all children younger than 8 years old, unless taller than 4’9”, are required to be in the appropriate child safety seat system wherever they ride in a passenger vehicle. The safety seat MUST be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”
That means that when a child reaches his or her eighth birthday – no matter their height, it is legal for the child to use only the adult safety belt in the passenger vehicle.
But the Texas Department of Public Safety states on its website that best safety practice is: “if the child is not yet 4’9”, they are better protected if they continue to use the appropriate child safety seat system until they can fit properly in the adult safety belt.”
“From a safety standpoint, I encourage parents to follow the best safety practice guidelines,” Evans said. “Graduating to a seat belt too early does keep children in car if they crash, but when the seat belt doesn’t fit properly it can cause serious injuries. That is something else we are seeing right now at Cook Children’s – children in halos because they were in seat belts too young and too early.”
Call 682-885-2634 to set up a FREE car seat checkup to ensure your seat is properly installed.