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What is the biggest threat to your child? The surprising answer

Children still die unnecessarily in automobile accidents and IIHS and NHTSA are putting the spotlight on the problem

On a recent episode of Mad Men, Don Draper drives up to his ex-wife’s home to drop off his two children. They are sitting next to him side by side, unbelted, on the front bench seat of his 1960s Cadillac. The scene is dramatic to those of us who are parents of young children. We can all remember the days of riding unbelted with a feeling of supreme safety as our parents drove us around. The most likely way for a child under the age of 12 to die back then was in an automobile. The tragedy is that even with seat belt laws, better habits, and incredible advances in automotive technology, it hasn’t changed. The leading cause of death in children under 12 remains motor vehicle crashes.

Alive Today Due To Car Seats
In order to bring attention to the problem and to help parents to better understand how to protect their children in vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a public service announcement (PSA) that will be provided via all forms of media. The PSA will focus on the importance of selecting the proper child safety seat for the child and proper installation and use of that seat. the PSA can be seen at this link. NHTSA has data that shows there are about 9,000 of us alive today due to the fact that we were saved by child safety seats between 1975 and 2008.

Tough To Use Safety Features
Concurrent with this effort by NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is highlighting the problem of Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) systems in cars that don’t work well because they are much too difficult for parents to use. Speaking first hand as a parent who has owned multiple family wagons, this author can say from experience that even in cars marketed exclusively for use as family cars, the LATCH rings in the backseats of these cars seem an afterthought. They are often hidden behind seat belts making it hard to secure them, or they are buried deeply inside seat cracks where they are hard to locate. Bear in mind that a pregnant mom holding a squirmy 2 year old and a car seat in 90 degree weather has enough of a challenge winning the battle of “let’s go home.” The last thing a parent needs is a hard to find car seat connection. What the IIHS excels at is embarrassing automakers into doing the right thing. No car maker wants to be seen as the uncaring corporation shirking safety for children.

Despite huge advances in safety the most likely cause of death in children under 12 remains vehicle crashes, but NHTSA and IIHS are doing their best to address the issue.
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Aaron Turpen    April 12, 2012 - 1:04PM

Safety seat manufacturers also have to take some blame here. Having two toddlers, I can tell you this: most child safety seats require an engineering degree to install correctly. Of course, with this setup, any tiny error removes all liability from the car seat manufacturer, so making it near-impossible for them to be installed correctly goes in their favor.