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Safety restraints help reduce child traffic deaths in last decade

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The number of children killed in car crashes declined 43 percent from 2002 to 2011, according to a Feb. 4 news release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC research showed that using age- and size-appropriate child restraints – car seats, booster seats and seat belts – is the best way to save lives and reduce child injuries in a crash. However, more than 9,000 children under the age of 12 died in crashes because they were not secured in a safety restraint. In addition, only two out of every 100 children live in states that require a car seat or booster seat for children 8 and under.

“No child should die in a motor vehicle crash because they were not properly buckled up, and yet, sadly, it happens hundreds of times each year in the U.S.,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in the CDC news release.

“Many of these tragedies are preventable when parents use age- and size-appropriate child restraints every time their child rides in a motor vehicle,” added Frieden.

CDC research also found 45 percent of African-American children and 46 percent of Hispanic children who died in crashes in 2009 and 2010 were not buckled up, compared to 26 percent of white children.

One reason for this disparity may be economic, Frieden told HealthDay.

“There can be difficulty paying for a car seat or an appropriately sized car seat,” explained Frieden. However, he noted that the CDC supports community programs that make safety restraints available to those who cannot afford them.

To help keep your child safe, the CDC recommends:

  • Using car seats, booster seats and seat belts on every trip, no matter how short.
  • Using rear-facing car seats from birth up to age 2, or until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
  • Using a forward-facing car seat from age 2 to at least age 5, or until the child reaches the upper weight or height limit of that seat.
  • Using a booster seat from age 5 until a seat belt fits properly. The recommended height for proper seat-belt use is 57 inches.
  • Using a seat belt when it fits the child properly: the lap belt lies across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lies across the chest (not the neck).
  • Installing and using safety restraints according the owner’s manual or getting help installing them from a certified child passenger safety technician. You can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website to locate a child car seat inspection station near you.
  • Buckling children 12 and under in the back seat.

“There is no excuse for parents not putting the child in restraints,” said Malvina Duncan, RN, a child passenger safety instructor at Miami Children’s Hospital, told HealthDay.

“It’s just changing a mindset that ‘it’s not going to happen to me.’ That is just a poor excuse. Parents have to do the right thing,” added Duncan.