8 year old Kaylin’s mother thought she was doing everything she could do to protect her daughter while driving in a car. She knew that children should be riding in the back seat instead of the front seat. She also knew they should be wearing a seat belt. Unfortunately, those safety measures were not enough to protect her daughter during a Brandon car accident. The impact of the accident threw Kaylin’s head forward into the center console. The black eye and facial fractures were not the worst of it however. Kaylin had a torn small intestine that required emergency surgery.
What Kaylin’s mother did not know is that seat belts are not designed to protect people shorter than 4’9″ tall. That’s not to say there is something wrong with kaylin’s mother. It’s simply not common knowledge in the general public. I certainly did not know until recently. Fortunately, the word is finally getting out.
The American Academy of pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently updated their advice on car seat use. Their new guidelines are as follows:
Children too big for car seats should ride in a booster seat until they are at least 4’9″ tall.
- Seat belts are designed to lie over the thighs and across the middle of the chest. When a child is too short the belt will come across the soft of the belly and can cause a severe injury in a car accident. Children do not have a lot of fat and tissue to cushion the area, so the belt can essentially cut them in half, injuring any soft organs or intestines.
Children should ride in rear-facing car seats until age 2. Previously the age limit was 1.
- Many parents worry about a 2 year old’s long legs reaching the back seat in a rear facing car seat, and possibly hurting the child in case of an accident. However, in an auto accident the rear-facing seat protects against head injuries and neck and back injuries. It is much easier to fix a broken leg than it is to fix a brain injury.
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Child safety advocates in Florida have been pleading with Florida legislators to pass laws adopting these safety measures. Hopefully the legislature will do so. However, passing such a law does no good unless the public is made aware of the potential consequences of not following the law. Hopefully, the Legislature will also allocate some money for public service announcements to educate the public on the importance of following these safety measures.
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