Car, truck, and other motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 700 children under the age of 12 are killed—and more than 120,000 are injured—in car accidents each year in the United States. Additionally, research shows that a shocking 35 percent of children who die in car crashes were not properly restrained.
Using the right child restraint system can significantly reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death in the event of an accident. Most states—including Delaware—require parents to secure their infants, toddlers, or young children in age-appropriate car seats or booster seats. Read on to learn more about Delaware's car seat laws and research into the safety benefits of using car seats and other child restraints.
Delaware Car Seat Requirements
Delaware state law mandates that children be properly restrained in an age-, weight- and height-appropriate federally approved child safety seat until they turn eight or weigh at least 65 pounds. Failing to comply with the state's child restraint requirements not only endangers tiny lives, but it can also subject the parents to fines and court costs.
NHTSA Child Restraint Recommendations
In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released new guidelines to help parents choose the right safety restraint system for their children. These guidelines encouraged parents to:
- Secure children under the age of one in rear-facing car seats
- Keep children in rear-facing or convertible car seats until they turn two or reach the seat's rear-facing maximum weight limit—usually 30 or 35 pounds—whichever comes later
- Secure children in a front-facing car seat until they meet the seat's maximum height and weight limits, then transition them to a federally approved booster seat
- Keep children in an approved booster seat until they turn eight or weigh at least 65 pounds
- Keep children in the age- or weight-appropriate restraints for as long as possible and avoid rushing to transition them to the next step
Car Seats and Other Child Safety Restraints Save Little Lives
Decades of research has clearly demonstrated the importance of securing children in suitable safety restraints before each and every car ride—even short ones. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, compared to seat belts alone, car seats and other child safety restraints reduce a child's risk of death by 28 percent, and reduce their risk of injury by 71 to 82 percent. Booster seats were also found to be effective in reducing the risk of non-fatal injuries among 4- to 8-year-olds by approximately 45 percent. NHTSA data shows that car seats saved the lives of nearly 250 children under the age of 5 in 2015 alone.
Improper Car Seat Installation Can Be Deadly
Unfortunately, simply having a car or booster seat in your vehicle isn't enough to protect your child from injury or death in the event of an accident. Improper installation can dramatically affect a child restraint system's effectiveness. National statistics from the NHTSA show that car seats are installed or used incorrectly in 59 percent of cases. This percentage is even higher in Delaware, according to the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS), which says that four out of every five car seats in the state are improperly installed. The OHS offers free car seat installation checks by appointment at fitting stations across the state.
Do You Need a Car Accident Attorney?
Even when you are careful to install and use your car seat or child safety restraint system correctly, traffic accidents—and subsequent injuries—can still happen. If your child was injured in a car accident caused by a distracted, drunk, drugged, or otherwise negligent motorist, the knowledgeable attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can review your case and help you explore your options for compensation. Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule an appointment for a free case analysis.