Every 34 seconds, an auto accident involving a child thirteen years old or younger occurs in the United States. In 2014, over 122,000 children were seriously injured, 602 fatally, in car accidents. These injuries and deaths occurred as a combination of collision forces and lack of proper restraints.
Risks of Improper Restraint of Children
Babies and children depend on their guardians to keep them safe. However, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that nearly 40% of parents who fail to buckle themselves often neglect to restrain their children properly as well. In fact, the CDC’s research into car seat and child restraint use found that over 618,000 children up to age 12 ride in vehicles without proper restraints.
Children who aren’t in proper seating have an increased risk for suffering severe and life-threatening injuries. Newborns to one-year-olds have an increased chance of injury of 71%, while one to four-year-olds have a 54% increased risk, and four to eight-year-olds suffer a 45% increased risk.
For parents who do use car and booster seats, it’s important to know that you may be using them incorrectly. An estimated 46% of these devices are being used ineffectively, due to improper fastening, buckling confusion, and incorrect sizing. Therefore, before you decide to take your child on his next road trip, it’s essential that you not only know that he needs to be buckled but also how he should be buckled.
Child Restraint Options
There are four types of child restraints: rear-facing child seats, forward-facing child seats, booster seats, and safety belts:
- Rear-facing. The rear-facing seat is designed to cradle an infant’s fragile neck and spinal cord from impact forces. You may suffer whiplash in the event of an accident as your head is thrown violently forward. However, if your baby’s head is forced forward, his delicate neck could break. The cushion and support of a rear-facing car seat eliminate the risk for your baby’s head to be thrown around, and thus protects his neck, head, and spine.
- Forward-facing. The forward-facing seat has a harness and tether that limits the ability for your child to be thrown forward when he is too big for a rear-facing seat. The five-point design allows for the belt to secure both shoulders, the abdomen, the pelvis, and the hips to provide maximum protection to prevent your baby from being thrown from his seat, or worse, the vehicle.
- Booster. Booster seats are used to raise your child so that the position of the car’s seat belt fits properly over the collarbone and hips. If your child is small enough that the belt naturally falls over his neck, legs, or stomach, he’ll need a booster seat to adjust the placement.
- Belt. When your child outgrows his booster seat or is tall enough that the belt crosses his collarbone, using the car’s seatbelt is recommended. Belt adjusters are available to provide additional comfort as the chest belt may be irritating for some younger passengers. However, you must remember that the belt must lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder at all times.
Tennessee Child Restraint Laws
Every state has its own specific laws governing the proper car restraints needed for the safety of child passengers. Some states regulate the use of car seats based on age, while others base it on height and weight. Tennessee bases their car seat regulations on both age and weight, and is only one of two states—the other being Wyoming—that requires the use of car seats past the age of eight.
- Babies up to one year of age, weighing less than twenty pounds. Must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat with the straps properly secured over both shoulders and clasped across the upper thighs. Seat should be placed in the rear of the vehicle, or by manufacturer standards. Rear-facing seats should never be placed in the front passenger seat with the back against the dashboard—the deployment of the airbag could cause serious injury.
- Children 1-3 years of age, weighing more than twenty pounds. Must be properly secured in a forward-facing child safety seat. The seat should be placed in the rear of the vehicle, if available. If vehicle doesn’t have a back seat, follow the vehicle manufacturer's instructions on how to properly install a child restraint system (in many cases, you may not be able to safely install a seat, and are therefore, lawfully unequipped to transport the child).
- Children 4-8 years of age, under four feet nine inches (4’9”). Must be properly secured in a belt-positioning booster seat. Again, the seat should be placed in the rear of the vehicle.
- Children 9-16, over four feet nine inches (4’9”). Must be properly secured with a seat belt. The shoulder strap should lie across the child’s collarbone, while the lap belt is snugly placed across the hip bone and upper thigh. Older children must be monitored to ensure proper seat belt use. Drivers who fail to monitor teen passengers may be charged with violations and fined $50.00 for non-compliance.
On average, a person will suffer three to four car accidents in his lifetime. Don’t allow your child’s future to be permanently changed because of someone else’s negligence. Get the help you need, when you need it—Get GriffithLaw. Our office is located in Franklin, and we serve a wide area, including Brentwood, Columbia, and Spring Hill. Call or contact us today for more information or to see how we can help you.