Keeping young children safe in an auto collision

Children under the age of 12 may be at a higher risk for being injured in a car accident if they are not properly restrained in a vehicle.

Car crashes can pose a serious risk for all Massachusetts residents. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state 121,350 children 12 years old and younger were injured and 663 children in the same age range died in motor vehicle accidents over the course of a single year. 35 percent of those children who died were not buckled up, so it stands to reason that using age-appropriate restraints may help keep young children safe.

Car seats

Many children under the age of seven need to be in some form of car seat. Car seats come in two distinct categories. They can be either rear- or forward-facing. Most guidelines suggest infants remain in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two years old. A kid's height and weight also needs to be taken into consideration when choosing the appropriate car seat.

For example, the harness of a restraint seat should be at or slightly below the child's shoulders. Similarly, the chest clip should be able to be tightened at the kid's chest or armpit level to ensure a snug fit. Once a toddler outgrows a rear-facing seat, he or she should be transitioned to a forward-facing car seat. This system may accommodate children up to 80 pounds according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Car seats should never be installed in the front passenger seat.

Booster seats

After a young kid outgrows his or her car seat, it is best to transition to a booster seat. This restraint system introduces the use of the car's safety belt rather than the harness system of the car seat. Depending on the size of the child, he or she may need to use a booster seat until the age of 12. Without a booster seat, children may slip through their restrains if a crash takes place.

Seat belts

Once a child can properly use the car's seat belts, he or she can graduate from the booster seat. A seat belt is properly used when certain conditions are met, such as the following:

  • The child's back remains against the back of the seat.
  • The lap belt lies flat across the upper thighs rather than across the belly.
  • The shoulder belt does not slip off the shoulder or sit across the neck, but rather fits securely across the center of the shoulder.

Even after moving out of the booster seat, children under the age of 12 should not be allowed to sit in the front seat.

Parents in Massachusetts need to learn how to properly restrain their children in a vehicle to help reduce accident-related injuries and deaths. No matter the age of those involved in a car collision, it may be beneficial to work with a knowledgeable attorney.