San Jose Rollover Car Accident Reminds Us of the Importance of Car Seat Safety

safety seatA recent San Jose auto accident points out the importance of kids using proper car seats. On March 16, three people were ejected from a SUV when the vehicle had a flat tire and rolled over on Highway 101 near Blossom Hill Road. One of those ejected was a one year old boy who was in a car seat which had been catapulted to the side of the road. Fortunately, the boy received only minor injuries. However, the accident points out the necessity of not only using car seats, but having them properly installed.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death and personal injury for children under the age of 14. In 2009, the State of California issued over 16,000 tickets to parents, and others who failed to properly secure children inside their vehicles.

California law requires that children under the age of six or weighs less than sixty pounds must ride in a federally approved child car seat. A child may not ride in the front seat if he is under the age of one, weighs less than 20 pounds or is riding in a rear facing child passenger restraint system.

In April 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics promulgated new guidelines for the use of car seats. They advocate that parents keep their children in rear-facing car seats until age two or until they exceed the weight or age limit for the particular type car seat which is being used. A 2007 study showed that children under the age of 2 were 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a car crash if they were in a rear-facing car seat.

The rear-facing car seats are more effective in preventing personal injuries to children in car accidents because of the way the forces on the body are distributed. This type of seat supports the head, neck, and spine of the children. Therefore, in a car crash the forces tend to be evenly distributed throughout the body, reducing the likelihood of injury.

In order to be effective in preventing personal injuries, the car seats must be properly installed. This will prevent the seat from malfunctioning as in this San Jose auto accident. According to Dr. Alisa Baer, 95% of car seats are being misused. Common mistakes include routing the seatbelts incorrectly; not putting the seatbelts in lock mode, using both the lower anchors of the LATCH system and the seatbelt, forgetting to use the tether, not putting enough weight on the seat as it is being installed. Parenting.com lists 11 other common safety seat mistakes.

In addition to being properly installed, the seats should be routinely inspected for defects. There are numerous child safety seat inspection stations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a listing of locations of inspection stations. Parent may also call any CHP office to set up a free appointment with a car seat technician to make sure the seats are properly installed and inspected.

As a San Jose personal injury lawyer, I have personally seen how the proper use of car seats has reduced the severity of injury to young children. Conversely, I have seen how young children have been seriously injured when the car seats and booster seats for children are not used or are used improperly. In order to keep our children safe, it is imperative that we are aware of the risks of serious injury to our kids if they are not placed in properly installed car safety seats.

Resources:

San Jose Mercury News, Injury to toddler in San Jose prompts CHP reminder about car seat safety, March 22, 2011

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