Does My Child Need to be in a Car Seat or a Booster Seat?
Florida recently passed a more stringent child restraint law. As of January 1, 2015, all children under the age of 6 must ride in a federally approved car seat or booster seat. It is a one size fits all law and, in my opinion, does not adequately address the needs of all children. Cars and the manufacturer’s restraining systems are not meant for children under 4’9”. Some children reach this height before others, but very few reach it before the age of 6. My advice is to keep your children in safety seats past the age required by law and until they attain a height of 4’9”.
When is it Appropriate to Change to a Booster Seat?
Children from birth to about 1 or until they reach 20 pounds should ride in a rear facing that is placed in the back seat. It is extremely important to make sure that the car seat is installed correctly and the belts and harness straps should fit snugly. After the age of 1, children may ride in a front facing car seat positioned in the back seat. Children should stay in this type of seat until they reach 40 pounds. However, many experts recommend keeping all children in rear facing car seats until they reach the 40 pound weight limit. Studies have indicated that children are 5 times safer in rear facing car seats, as compared to children in front facing car seats.
After the child has surpassed the weight requirements of the child safety seat, usually, around the age of 4, a belt positioning booster seat becomes an appropriate device to use. The booster seat should also be placed in the back seat. However, it should never be used with just a lap belt. Using it without a shoulder belt can actually cause injuries to the child. Fortunately, there are vests/harness that can be purchased for use in cars which only have lap belts.
When Can My Child Sit in the Front Seat?
First, never, under any circumstances, put a rear facing car seat in the front seat of a car with a passenger side airbag. The reason is that passenger side air bag will be in close proximity to the back of your child’s head. The airbags deploy with such force that they can easily cause the death of an infant. As a general rule, front seat passengers are 3 times more likely to die in a car crash as backseat passengers. I would recommend keeping children in the backseat for as long as possible. Most passenger safety organizations recommend that no children under the age of 13 ride in the front seat.
Children sitting in the front are at a greater risk of striking the dashboard, being struck by glass and debris and being injured by the airbag. Obviously, in a car without airbags, children have the same exposure as an adult would with the danger of striking the dashboard. In a car with an airbag which has not been disabled, there have been a disturbing number of deaths reported in slow speed crashes in which the airbag caused the death of the child.
How Well do Car Seats Protect My Infant?
The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that a child in a car seat’s risk of injury in a car accident is drastically reduced. It is not, and cannot be eliminated. However, the injuries in very small children and infants can be difficult to diagnose. Generally speaking, children suffer many of the same injuries as adults when involved in car accidents. The most common of which are:
1. Head and brain injuries;
2. Injuries to the chest and lungs;
3. Abdominal injuries;
4. Fractures to the collarbone, arms and hands; and
5. Fractures to the pelvis and legs.
The injury prognosis for children can be worse than similar injuries when sustained by adults. Further, the long term effects of traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can cause long lasting or permanent cognitive impairment. The head injuries are especially concerning in infants because traumatic brain injuries are more difficult to diagnose because infants are non-verbal. Tomorrow, I will devote an entire blog to discussing the challenges that infants and small children present when attempting to diagnose injuries and how parents can assist doctors in diagnosis.
Contact Jones Law Group
Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney at Jones Law Group today. When you contact our office we will immediately set an appointment where you will meet your attorney and be provided with his/her personal contact information. If you do not have transportation or you cannot drive, your attorney will travel to meet you and discuss your case with you in the privacy of your own home.
Whether you were a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or the occupant of car, motorcycle or boat and have been injured in an accident, you should immediately call an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.
Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707