If you are the parent of a young child, you are probably familiar with infant car seats, regular car seats, convertible seats and boosters. You may have a variety of them that you have used over the years or you may just be starting your journey with infant restraints. While it can seem complicated at times, it is important to understand the importance of car seats and the role they play in your children’s safety.
If you live in Arizona or if you drive in the state, you are required to follow the laws governing children in vehicles. That means if your child is younger than eight years or or shorter than 4’9″, your child must either be in a car seat or a booster seat, depending on her actual age and size.
Beyond the legal requirements of the state or a locality, it is important to use a car seat for the safety of your child. Vehicular safety advances are designed to help protect an adult of typical height and weight. When compared, a child is too small and too light to be safely protected by things like a standard seat belt or an airbag. Rather, children are often injured severely if they encounter either instead of being properly secured in an approved child safety seat.
But the seat or booster is only part of the story when it comes to a child’s safety inside a car. Though many know of these requirements, fewer realize that the actual location of a car seat or booster can make a significant difference in a child’s outcome if that child is a victim of a car accident.
First, young children should never ride in the front seat. If your child is under eight years old and/or 4’9″, you must comply with state laws regarding child restraints and placing them in the back. However, the Arizona Department of Transportation recommends that no child under the age of 13 ride in the front seat – regardless of that child’s physical size.
While every seat in a car is designed for an adult-sized passenger, the driver’s seat and the front passenger seat are the most limited when it comes to protecting smaller riders. It is always safest to have your child in the back seat even if your child is no longer required to be a booster seat and even if your child seems large for his or her age. The Arizona Driver License Manual further state that if a child must ride in the front seat for some reason, the driver should turn off the airbag at that location to protect the child from possible injury due to a deploying airbag in the event of a crash.
Anywhere in the back is preferable to the front for young riders, but not all positions in the back provide the same safety options. Experts agree that the middle of the back seat is the safest option for young riders because it provides extra space around them. In fact, a 2010 study by the American Acadamy of Pediatrics concluded that children who ride in the middle back seat are 43 percent less likely to be injured than those who ride in the back but are in a seat either on the driver’s side or the passenger’s side. As many crashes involve side-impacts or even T-bones, having space to the left and right of a car seat or a booster can provide extra safety because that space can be compromised without a direct impact being felt by a child. If you can use the middle of the back seat, you should use it for your young child.
If you cannot use the middle seat for some reason or if you have multiple children, consider using the seat behind the driver as opposed to the seat behind the front passenger. There are studies that conclude a driver is likely to protect her side of the vehicle out of instinct in a threatening situation and therefore a child riding behind the driver likewise would be protected. Further, a significant number of collisions are left-turn crashes where a vehicle attempting a left turn is hit by oncoming traffic. In those cases, the strike occurs on the passenger side of the turning vehicle so it is best not to have a child in that position if other options are available. Strikes to the driver’s side of the car are less frequent and therefore pose a more minimal risk of causing injuries to children riding in that position.
If a car accident caused your child to be injured, your family may be entitled to financial compensation to cover your damages and to provide you with the relief you need to move forward after the crash. If you have questions or are unsure about your options, speaking with a lawyer who handles injuries to children and minors can be a good starting point to realizing whether you have a valid claim for help.
Prior Blog Entry:
How Drowsiness Alerts in Vehicles Can Save Lives in Phoenix, Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, published October 8, 2016.