A Look at Child Passenger Safety

By Peter DePaolis

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death for children ages one to 12. In 2009, 1,314 children ages 14 and under died in car accidents in the United States, and approximately 179,000 others were injured. One of the best ways to protect child passengers is to properly restrain them. In the event of a serious accident, an unrestrained child is far more likely to be injured or killed. In fact, Safe Kids USA reports that nearly half of all children ages 14 and under who die in auto accidents are completely unrestrained.

The Importance of Child Safety Seats

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that using age- and size-appropriate car seats and booster seats reduces serious and fatal injuries among children by more than half. Yet a recent CDC study revealed that over a period of one year, more than 618,000 children under age 13 rode in vehicles without a child safety seat, booster seat, or seatbelt, at least part of the time. To keep young passengers safe, adults should properly secure children at all times.

According to NHTSA:

  • Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until at least age one
  • Children ages one to three should continue to ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight established by the manufacturer
  • Children ages four to seven should be secured in a front-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height or weight established by the manufacturer
  • Children ages eight to 12 should sit in a booster seat until they are big enough for a seatbelt to fit them properly

In addition to being age- and size-appropriate, a child safety seat or booster seat must be installed correctly to be effective. A CDC study found that 72 percent of the sampled car seats and booster seats were being misused. Parents can visit one of NHTSA’s car seat inspection stations around the country for assistance in choosing or installing a child safety seat.

Defective Child Safety Seats

As with any product, child safety seats have the potential to be defective. Examples include:

  • Harness or handle failure
  • Base/shell separation
  • Sudden release
  • Unexpected rotation
  • Weak construction
  • Faulty design
  • Inferior or flammable materials

If your child has been seriously injured or killed in a car accident, contact an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney today to learn about your legal rights. Whether a reckless driver or a negligent car seat manufacturer is to blame, our team can help you get the compensation your family needs and deserves.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.