Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children. Many children are unrestrained or restrained improperly, which greatly increases their chances of injury.
Tweens (8-12 year olds) are at higher risk for crash injury. As children age, their crash injury rate increases. This is most likely due to lower restraint use among older children.
Tweens are at an important age for intervention. They are at a point in their life where they are transitioning and developing life-long habits. They are also highly impressionable to peer and parent influence.
What is the issue?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that only about half of tweens (8-12 year olds) killed in crashes wear safety belts. With the use of proper restraints, the risk of dying in a crash is reduced 45% to 60% depending on the vehicle type.
One-half to three-fourths of tweens sit in the front seat when they are the sole passengers in the vehicle. By sitting in the back seat until age 13, the risk of dying in a crash is reduced by 40%.
What do you need to know?
The two most important things tweens can do to protect themselves in a crash are to use the proper safety restraint (safety belt or booster seat) and sit in the back seat.
People are 4 times more likely to be killed if thrown from the vehicle. Safety restraints prevent being thrown from the vehicle and spread crash forces over the strongest parts of the body.
Most crashes are frontal, so rear seating moves children farther from the point of impact and away from airbags that are not safe for smaller passengers. Rear seating cuts mortality risk in half.
Many tweens still need a booster seat
When children are too small for a seat belt, the seat belt can cause injuries in a crash. Many adults are surprised to learn that it can take up to 12 years for a child to be big enough for safety belts — close to 5 feet tall and between 80 and 100 pounds.
Is your child ready for a seat belt? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, your child is not ready to transition out of the booster seat.
With the child sitting all the way back against the back of the seat:
Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
Does the shoulder belt cross the chest at the shoulder, not the neck?
Does the lap belt fit low and snug on the hip bones, touching the upper thighs?
Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
What should you do?
Parents should tell their children to sit in the back seat, and to buckle up! This may require the use of a booster seat until the belt fits properly.
Explain to them why it’s important to buckle up for every ride, every time (no exceptions)!
Help keep them happy in the back seat by letting them pick the radio station, and by pointing the A/C vents in their direction.
Make an example for your children and practice buckling up yourself (children may not hear what you say, but they will do what you do)!