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September Is Child Passenger Safety Awarness

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August 11, 2023 Practice News

As summer fades and students return to school, we want to highlight the importance of child passenger safety. Each day, countless children commute by car to school, sports practices, or other activities. It’s a daily routine that can pose significant risks if parents and other adults overlook child passenger safety.

Child passenger safety isn’t just about strapping your child into a car seat. It ensures that safety equipment suits the child’s age, weight, and height and that you install and use it correctly. Taking simple safety steps can significantly reduce the risk of a child injury or fatality in the event of a crash.

In this blog, we look at the history and continued importance of Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week and discuss how an experienced personal injury lawyer in Denver can secure compensation for families whose children suffer injuries in motor vehicle accidents.

Child Passenger Safety

History of Child Passenger Safety Awareness Month

President Ronald Reagan signed Senate Joint Resolution 289 into law, designating June 18, 1984, as National Child Passenger Safety Awareness Day. The act began a decades-long effort by the federal government and non-governmental agencies to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring child safety in motor vehicles.

The observance evolved into a week-long event known as National Child Passenger Safety Week. Until 2007, a week of events and awareness-raising took place in February around Valentine’s Day.

But in 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it would move to September and culminate in National Seat Check Saturday, a day specifically dedicated to promoting the proper selection and installation of child car seats.

Today, all levels of federal, state, and local government, plus child safety advocacy organizations, recognize September as Child Passenger Safety Awareness Month, focusing on the week-long event and National Seat Check Saturday.

Around the country, events and public outreach campaigns educate and inform the public about child passenger safety issues and best practices. In 2023, Child Passenger Safety Week will run from September 17 through 23. September 23, 2023, will also be National Seat Check Saturday.

The Urgency of Child Passenger Safety

Even with the continued awareness and advances in child passenger safety equipment, ensuring child passenger safety remains an urgent issue. Despite the availability and relative affordability of state-of-the-art car seats, seat belts, and child booster seats, children continue to suffer from preventable injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.

According to the NHTSA, car accidents represent a leading cause of preventable child deaths. In a recent year, 710 children under age 13 died in passenger vehicles, and more than 100,000 sustained injuries. More than a third of the children who died were unrestrained at the time of the accident.

Additionally, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the proper use of restraints declines as children age. In a recent year, 40 percent of eight- to 12-year-olds killed in accidents were not wearing a seatbelt, compared with 31 percent of children under age four.

Research suggests that these disparities result from children graduating too early to the next stage restraints (from car seats to boosters, for instance, or from boosters to adult seat belting). Belts and other safety equipment only work effectively when they match a child’s height and weight.

The CDC also reports troubling research findings about the frequent misuse of car seats and boosters. According to multiple studies, around half of all car seats and boosters are improperly sized, fitted, or installed, reducing their effectiveness and, in some cases, endangering child passengers. Some common and preventable misuses of child passenger safety equipment include incorrect recline angles for rear-facing car seats, loose installation of car seats, loose belts, and improper belt positions.

While these numbers may be alarming, we know how to correct them. The proper use of restraints can significantly reduce the risk of fatality and injuries for children in a crash.

According to the CDC, child car seats reduce the risk of injury in a crash by between 71 and 82 percent. Using booster seats reduces injury risk by at least 45 percent among children ages four to eight. And states that enact child passenger safety laws see meaningful reductions in child injuries and fatal crashes.

But the toll of child passenger injuries and fatalities can’t be captured by statistics alone. Those figures represent incalculable physical, emotional, and financial losses inflicted on children and families who must grapple with the toll of a preventable injury or death in a crash. It reminds us why America created Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week and why we must continue to strive for better child safety measures.

Child Passenger Safety Laws

Child passenger safety isn’t just a moral imperative—it’s a legal one, too. Laws across the United States enforce the use of appropriate safety equipment for children while traveling in a vehicle. However, these laws can vary from state to state, and some states lag behind the current safety standards recognized as most effective for preventing injuries and saving children’s lives.

From coast to coast, states enforce laws designed to protect children while they are passengers in vehicles. These laws often dictate the specific restraint system required for children based on their age, height, and weight.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), every state, including the District of Columbia, has laws requiring child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria. And most states and the District of Columbia require booster seats or other appropriate devices for children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to safely use an adult seat belt.

Yet, child passenger safety laws vary significantly from state to state. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia require children under age 2 to travel in rear-facing child safety seats.

Some state laws only require a car seat or booster until a certain age, ignoring the significant variations in height and weight that influence the effectiveness of the next level of restraint for a child. These shortcomings in state law can put children at risk and lead to higher rates of injuries and fatalities, according to the research cited by the CDC, discussed above.

Parents or drivers who fail to comply with child passenger safety laws can face fines or points against their driving records. Some states also require community service or attendance at a child passenger safety education course.

Yet, the practical implications of non-compliance are much graver. Seat belts, child safety seats, and booster seats are all designed to protect occupants in a crash. Failing to use or misusing these devices significantly increases the risk of severe injury or death from a collision.

Tips for Improving and Promoting Child Passenger Safety

Child passenger safety isn’t just about complying with the law—it’s about proactively ensuring your child’s safety, health, and well-being. Every parent can take a few concrete actions to improve child passenger safety.

Selecting and Installing Safety Equipment

Selecting the proper safety equipment is the first step. Different types of car seats are designed for different age groups, and using appropriate safety equipment for your child’s age, weight, and height is crucial.

Infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats until age two or until they reach the car seat’s maximum weight or height limit. Convertible seats can accommodate children as they grow, first as rear-facing seats, then as forward-facing seats.

Children ages four through seven should sit in forward-facing seats with a harness. After they outgrow the forward-facing seat, they should use a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly (usually when they are 4′ 9” tall). Also, remember that the back seat is the safest place for children under 13.

When secured by belts, straps, and anchor latches, car seats should not move more than one-inch side to side or front to back. If you don’t know how to install a car seat correctly, local police or fire departments offer car seat inspections anytime, including on National Seat Check Saturday on September 23, 2023.

Parents, caregivers, and schools can also educate children about safety while in a car. Children should learn the reasons for wearing seat belts or using car seats and boosters. And they should know the universal rules of child passenger safety: Always wear a seat belt, sit still and stay seated, don’t distract the driver, and keep hands and feet inside the car.

Finally, parents can advocate for stronger child passenger safety laws at the state and national levels. This might involve calling or writing to lawmakers, signing petitions, or attending rallies or legislative sessions.

Advocacy can also mean educating friends, family, and community members about the importance of child passenger safety and spreading awareness through social media and other platforms.

Ensuring child passenger safety is a responsibility we all share. By adhering to safety laws, making smart decisions about safety equipment, and advocating for stronger child passenger safety laws, we can protect our youngest passengers and work towards the goal of no child being injured or killed in a vehicle accident.

A Lawyer’s Role in Accidents that Harm Child Passengers

When accidents harm children, an experienced lawyer can secure justice and compensation for the child and family. Legal professionals handle every aspect of pursuing legal action and securing fair payment for losses, so that child victims and their families can focus on healing and recovering from their trauma.

The Right to Compensation for Child Injuries Suffered in a Crash

If your child sustains injuries as a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, you and your child may have a right to receive compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages.

This may include payment for medical and other accident-related expenses, the loss of earnings, job benefits, and future opportunities resulting from the trauma, the pain and suffering caused by the injury, and sometimes punitive damages.

However, the right to receive compensation does not automatically translate into payment. It often takes the work of an experienced attorney to maximize your compensation for a child’s injuries. Contact a lawyer today to learn about the monetary compensation you could receive.

Who Owes Compensation?

The parties whose wrongful decisions or actions cause a car accident (and their liability insurance carriers) are typically also the ones who owe compensation to the injured victims.

Every crash differs, but those parties could include:

  • An at-fault driver who acted carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel
  • An employer of a driver who caused a crash in a work vehicle
  • An automotive manufacturer that sold a defective vehicle or vehicle parts that played a role in causing the crash
  • A government entity or private road owner at fault for unreasonably hazardous, preventable road conditions that triggered an accident

These are just a few examples. It often falls to a lawyer for the crash victims to determine who should be held accountable for the harm they suffered. To learn about the parties who may owe compensation for your child’s injuries, contact an experienced car accident lawyer in Denver today.

The Role of the Lawyer

The role of a lawyer in child passenger injury cases extends far beyond just representing the family in court or settlement negotiations. Personal injury lawyers act as advocates, advisors, and counselors to distraught families, guiding them through an often challenging and confusing time.

A lawyer can explain the legal process in understandable terms, review and assess insurance policies, gather crucial evidence to support a claim, and negotiate with insurance companies to maximize compensation. They also connect families with support resources, help them get the medical care they need, and serve as trusted advisors when families must make consequential decisions.

Hiring a lawyer means you can focus on what’s paramount during this time: taking care of your child and your family. While the lawyer handles the legal complexities, you can concentrate on healing and recovery.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

September is near. This Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week, let’s all remember to highlight the importance of child safety in vehicles and work together to prevent unnecessary accidents.

And, if the worst does occur, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced child passenger injury lawyer in your area for a free consultation about your rights and options.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!