Fort Worth, Texas,
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Record Number Of Holiday Travelers Means Greater Risk For Danger On The Highways

Your holiday cheer may be put to the test this weekend, with more than 104 million estimated to take to the highways from Saturday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1. AAA reports this will be the most holiday travelers in nearly 20 years since the company began tracking in 2000.

With so many people out on the road, it means more opportunity for danger.

From Dec. 20 to Dec. 31, 2018, the Trauma Department at Cook Children's reports 17 children were admitted at the Medical Center for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes and an additional 29 children were treated and released after a visit to the Cook Children's Emergency Department. One wreck during that time frame included a fatality and a total of three children died during the entire month of December.

“Unfortunately, we've seen children die around the holidays," said Debbie Wheeler, a Child Life specialist for the Emergency Department at Cook Children's. "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.”

Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Many of those deaths could have been avoided 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 lived and the other child not buckled died.

“Honestly, it’s just so infuriating,” Evans said. “These crashes are 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 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."

Holiday Injuries Treated at Cook Children's (Dec. 20-31, 2018)

Day of Month Assault Auto-Pedestrian Bike Crash Dog Bite Gunshot Wounds Motor Vehicle Crashes Off Road Struck By Burn Grand Total
Dec. 20           2       2
Dec. 21             2     2
Dec. 22   1       2       3
Dec. 23     1             1
Dec. 24       1   1 2 1 1 6
Dec. 25       1   3 1     5
Dec. 26           5       5
Dec. 27                   0
Dec. 28     1       1     2
Dec. 29 1 1     1     1   4
Dec. 30 1   1     4       6
Dec. 31                   0
Grand Total 2 2 3 2 1 17 6 2 1 36

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. 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 and 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.

However, 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 the 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 a halo brace for severe neck injuries 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.

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