In recent years, experts have strongly cautioned parents against allowing children to sit in the front seat. While airbags are a lifesaving device for adults, airbag deployment in a crash or collision can injure or kill children. Clearly, parents are heeding those warnings, as child deaths due to airbags have dropped some 94% since 1996.
More and more parents are paying attention to child safety in the car. In a National Safety Council (NSC) survey, no parents reported placing a child under 4 in the front seat, and only 10% of parents reported allowing children from 5 to 12 years to ride in the front seat. The rear seat of the car is the safest place for children, and parents need to hear and take the message to heart.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reveals that more parents than ever are properly buckling up their children. While that is good, and improves child safety on the road substantially, parents do need to remember that children, even as they get older, need to be in the backseat until they are at least 12 years of age.
What are the recommendations for child safety on the road? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Safety Council (NSC) recommend safety measures for children up to 12. Infant should be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat to a minimum of one year of age and 20 lbs. Toddlers should ride in a convertible car seat until they outgrow it, then in a suitable booster seat until they reach 80 pounds and 4’9″ in height. Once out of child restraint seats, the child should remain properly belted in the rear of the car until he or she is 12 years old.
Chuck Hurley, executive director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council.has stated that “The Campaign will be intensifying its efforts to communicate to parents that children are safer in back.” Moreover, the NSC has expressed significant concern regarding the number of children still allowed to ride in the front passenger seat of vehicles. NHTSA director, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, reminds parents, “It is vitally important that all parents secure their children in the back seat. The back is always the safest place for kids to ride.”
While child deaths in crashes are down 10.7% since 1996 and airbag related deaths are down 94%, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of death among children. According to Dr. Marilyn Bull of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We must continue to educate parents that the much safer place for children is in the back seat, properly restrained.” According to a 2005 study, children are 40% safer riding in the rear seat of the vehicle. Airbags, as well as possible collisions with the dashboard and windshield both pose a substantial risk in a traffic collision if a child is riding in the front seat.
What can you do to get this message across to your children? Experts suggest explaining that you know better now, and they need to sit in the rear seat for safety. Some states legally require children to ride in the rear seat, and laws in nearly every state now require older children to use booster seats until they reach an appropriate size to be safely belted into the car seatbelt. You may also find it helpful to explain riding in the rear, or in a suitable child booster seat like you would a helmet. Just as a helmet protects the child’s head on their bicycle, so does riding in the back seat in an appropriate restraint.
While child restraint laws and awareness have improved safety for children on our roads, too many parents are still taking chances with their children’s lives by allowing them to ride in the front seat. While airbags are responsible for some of the risk to children in the front seat, parents should be aware that the back seat, with proper child restraints, is the safest place for children, even if their vehicle has an airbag shut off. The back seat of a vehicle, properly belted, is always safest, and would be even for adults.
Take the steps you need to take to protect your children on the roads. Move them to the rear seat, always, until they are at least 12 years old. Use proper child safety seats and boosters until they fit safely and appropriately in the adult seat belt. Make certain that anyone driving your child, from grandparents to carpools maintains these same safety rules. A traffic crash can happen to anyone at anytime, and appropriate child safety is critical. While the number of child deaths from traffic crashes has dropped dramatically in the last decade, with further attention to child safety on the road, those numbers can drop even further.