A Virginia mom of a 6-year-old girl is advocating for parents to make sure their child is properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat – every time.
The Today Show reports the girl had not been in a booster seat one day in September when her father, who had simply forgotten the booster seat that day, veered off the road and struck a tree. The girl had been sitting with the shoulder strap behind her upper body, and the lap belt ran across her stomach. When her father crashed, the force of the impact was so severe, the seat belt dug into her abdomen, shredding the muscle and fat underneath. It even cut through the left side of her body, causing several inches of her intestines to spill outside of her belly.
A pediatric surgeon who treated the girl told Today the seat belt in this scenario acts “almost like a knife.”
It drives home the necessity of always using child booster seats and car seats until children are old enough and tall enough to use a regular seat belt.
Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 13 in the U.S. The best way we can protect them in the event of a crash is to ensure they are in the right car seat at the right time and that it’s used the right way. We also need to stay abreast of car seat recalls so we know when to immediately stop using seats that may be defective or otherwise unsafe.
As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports, car seats need to be chosen based on a child’s age and size.
The general guidelines are this:
- Rear-Facing Car Seats – These should always be used for infants under the age of 1. There are a number of different types of rear-facing seats, including infant-only seats and convertible seats that typically have a higher height and weight limit for those in a rear-facing position. Between the ages of 1 and 3, keep your child in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, until he/ she reaches the maximum weight and height limit allowed by the manufacturer.
- Forward-Facing Car Seats – These should always be used for children between 1 and 3 years (if they are not in a rear-facing seat). Forward-facing car seats should also be used for children between the ages of 4 and 7 until he or she outgrows the top height and weight for the seat’s manufacturer.
- Booster Seats – These seats should be used by all children between the ages of 4 and 7 (unless they are in forward-facing car seats). Boosters seats should only be placed in the back seat and can be used by children potentially up to age 12, or until the shoulder belt lies snugly across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face. Even older children should always sit in the back seat because it is generally safer.
As for the little girl in Virginia, it’s been almost two months and two surgeries later. She probably will require an additional surgery. Her mother reports she has numerous limitations. She’ll try to build a blanket fort and break down in tears because she can’t bend over. She asks her mother when she’ll be normal.
The organization Safe Kids reports that correct use of a booster seat or car seat can slash the risk of a child fatality in an auto accident by more than 70 percent. Approximately 340 children died in traffic accidents in 2012, and more than a third of those weren’t buckled at all. Compared to only using a seat belt, booster seats can lower the risk of serious injury to children between the ages of 4 and 8 by 45 percent.
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After daughter sustains major injuries, mom warns about proper car seat use, Nov. 1, 2016, By Meghan Holohan, Today
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