According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in children ages 1 to 13. This is in part due to car accidents being a leading contender in causes of death in general in the U.S., but it’s also due to parents not always taking the correct precautions to make sure their children are properly seated and protected in their car.
But protecting the well-being of your child is the most important part of being a parent. That’s why it’s critical to make sure you’re doing everything you can to fulfill your role as their protector, including driving with them safely. Though you can never predict how other drivers on the road might behave or what the results of any type of car accident might be, there are preventative measures you can take before you and your children even get in the car that can help to mitigate the effects of a serious crash. And these measures could mean all the difference for your children.
Common Injuries Children Suffer in Car Accidents
Typical injuries children can experience in a car accident include:
- Head or neck injuries such as whiplash, concussions, a broken neck, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and skull fractures. Spinal injuries can lead to partial or complete paralysis, and brain injuries can be catastrophic in young children because they can cause permanent changes to their memory, personality, and cognitive abilities.
- Injuries from airbag impact. Most airbags in cars deploy at 100 mph or faster. This can be a life-saving factor for many adults, but for a young child, that is an incredible amount of force that can sometimes cause them serious harm. Children under 13 years old have a higher risk of suffering nose, dental, and neck injuries if an airbag deploys directly into their head.
- Lacerations are most often caused by broken glass. Even the tiniest fragments can result in injury, disfigurement, and scarring.
- Chest injuries are caused by the collision impact or the seatbelt tightening. Broken ribs, collapsed or punctured lungs, and internal bleeding can all occur as a result.
- Fractures, or broken bones, are common in children’s wrists, legs, arms, ribs, and pelvis in car accidents.
- Psychological trauma. Even if your child is lucky enough to come away from the accident unscathed, there is real trauma in experiencing something so severe, especially from the perspective of a young child who may not fully understand what has occurred. This can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, and other mental and emotional conditions.
Young children often have difficulty expressing exactly what they might be feeling, both physically and mentally. This is why, if you’ve been involved in a crash with your child, you should always take them to get checked out by a medical professional—even if they don’t appear to be injured or aren’t directly telling you how they’re feeling after the crash. Many injuries, such as brain injuries, can present delayed symptoms that make them difficult to detect without a doctor’s help. So if you’re in a crash with your child, always take them to get checked out as soon as possible.
How to Keep Your Child Safe While Driving
Researching, understanding, and adhering to both the legal and recommended requirements given by your state’s transportation department, as well as the parameters set forth by car and booster seat manufacturers, is one of the most proactive steps you can take in protecting your child during an accident.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), children younger than 4 years old or who weigh less than 40 pounds must be seated in an appropriate child safety seat. Children ages 4 through 7 who weigh at least 40 pounds must also be seated in an appropriate safety seat or booster seat until they weigh at least 80 pounds or reach 4’9” tall. And children 8 years and older who meet those thresholds are still required to be secured by a safety belt or buckled into an appropriate booster seat. And always keep your children riding in the back seat of your car through at least age 12.
When it comes to choosing an “appropriate” car seat for your child, there are a lot of factors that must be considered depending on your child’s age, weight, height, and the type of car you drive. When selecting the right car or booster seat for your child, first consider your child’s age and size as the primary factors for making your selection. Then you’ll need to research which of those seats fits your particular type of vehicle specifically before making your purchase.
The manufacturer of the seat should provide a manual on how to properly install the car seat so that you’re using it safely. Follow it closely, and if you’re still unsure about how to do it properly, seek out assistance. Hospitals, fire departments, and police departments can all help you safely install your child’s car seats. The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation in St. Louis even has a free Safety Program dedicated to helping parents prevent childhood injuries that involve educating them about proper car safety for their children.
When you’ve selected and installed a seat that is appropriate for your child and car, use that same car seat every time. Changing car seats frequently can lead to overlooking important installation processes or other necessary safety features. However, if you and your child are involved in a crash while your child is in their car seat, replace that car seat immediately. Do not reuse a car seat involved in a crash, as you never know if the integrity of the seat has been compromised to a point of no longer being as safe as intended.
Visit the NHTSA website to learn more about selecting the proper car seat for your child. To learn more about Missouri’s laws and recommendations regarding driving with your children, visit the MoDOT website.
What to Do if You’re Involved in a Crash with Your Child
If you and your child have been involved in a car accident, follow the same steps as you would for yourself if it was only you in the car, but be hypervigilant about ensuring your child gets the care and attention they need first.
As mentioned, even if it doesn’t appear like your child is suffering from any injuries, always take them to get examined by a doctor after dealing with the accident. They may not be able to communicate what they’re feeling to you clearly, and you don’t want to overlook any injuries you may not be able to see yourself. So let a doctor help you make sure they’re okay.
Even if immediate medical attention at the site of the accident isn’t necessary, it’s always wise to call the police to come to the scene, especially if there’s extensive damage to one or more vehicles or other property. They can also help you to safely and thoroughly gather information about the accident and other drivers involved as needed. It’s important to collect contact and insurance information from all parties involved, note the location, time, and conditions during the accident, and keep track of any possible witnesses to the accident.
When working with your insurance company or the insurance company of the other driver, make sure they’re aware that your child was in the vehicle, and that they will need proper coverage and compensation for any injuries as well. And always be sure to adhere to the treatment plan your child’s doctor creates for their recovery, and do your best to help and support them however you can. This is certainly a tough time for you, but it’s an equally hard time for them. Be the parent they need by putting their safety and well-being first.
Being involved in a car accident is never fun, but it’s especially scary when your child is the one who’s been hurt. The good news is that there are steps you can take to ensure their safety and well-being. By following the advice in this blog post, you’ll be able to handle the situation with confidence and ease. And if you ever need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to call the personal injury lawyers at Finney Injury Law. We’re here to help! 314-293-4222
Posted Under: Car Accident