COLUMBUS — Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children, ages 1 to 13.
While proper use of child safety seats reduces a child’s risk of death by up to 71 percent, a properly installed car seat is just half the battle. Unrestrained items, from sippy cups to cell phones, as well as unbuckled passengers, can turn deadly during a crash.
In conjunction with Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 17-23, 2017) AAA is advising parents to ensure their child’s car seat, belongings and other occupants are properly secured in the car.
Cell phones, sippy cups, toys, groceries and purses all seem harmless, but they can become dangerous projectiles in a crash. That’s because of simple physics: weight x speed = crash force.
For example, a five-pound purse in a car traveling at 35 mph would exert 175 pounds of force on a child or other occupant when involved in a crash.
“Projectiles in your vehicle can cause fatal injuries to ANY occupant in the vehicle, including a perfectly restrained child,” said Kellie O’Riordan, traffic safety program manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club and Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor.
The most common and deadly projectile in vehicles are unrestrained passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a study that found that many view the need to buckle up in the back seat as optional, and four out of five adults don’t use a safety belt when making short trips or traveling by taxi or ride-hailing services.
An unbuckled adult inside a vehicle traveling 40 mph would hit the windshield, or another occupant with the same force as hitting the ground after a fall from a five-story building, according to Safe Kids Worldwide’s National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program.
“By deciding not to buckle up, occupants present great risk to themselves and all other occupants in the vehicle, including children.” said O’Riordan. “Each driver and passenger should speak up when they see this unsafe and illegal practice. Speaking up could save a life.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates seat belts helped save 13,941 lives in 2015, and if everyone buckled up that number could increase by 2,800.
Checking for Safety
In an effort to keep children, and all occupants safe while riding in the car, AAA Ohio Auto Club offers free seat checks, by appointment, for all parents and caregivers at its stores. For more information and to find a location, visit AAA.com/ChildSafety.