I remember being a small child riding around in the back of my father’s pickup. I also remember riding in my uncle’s muscle car and the seat belts were there “for decoration”. It wasn't too long ago when mothers would carry their babies on their laps as the family went on an outing. Times have changed, laws are becoming more stringent, and cars are becoming safer. Children, however, are still dying due to not being properly restrained in a vehicle.
The Department of Transportation has statistics on highway fatalities. Using their Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), you can narrow down statistics using their “Query” feature. Alabama, in 2007, had 193 motor vehicle fatalities for those under the age of 15*. Of those, 94 children were reported to not have been properly restrained. In 2006, out of 227 fatalities, there were 126 unrestrained children. In 2005, they comprised 86 of the 206 fatalities. If you think about it, nearly HALF of those deaths may have been prevented had the children been restrained. That is 306 children who might be alive if they had been wearing a seat belt or in a car seat. That is also 306 drivers who thought it would never happen to them.
Here is the law as stated by Act 2006-623 effective July 1, 2006:
"(1) Infant only seats and convertible seats used in the rear facing position for infants until at least one year of age or 20 pounds.
"(2) Convertible seats in the forward position or forward facing seats until the child is at least five years of age or 40 pounds.
"(3) Booster seats until the child is six years of age.
"(4) Seat belts until 15 years of age."
It is also recommended to keep children in the back seat until the age of 12. It is believed the air bag can do more harm than good for a child in the front seat. This is why there is an airbag disable feature in some pickups. Remember, Parents, you should wear your seat belts. Children learn from the examples you provide.
If you, or someone you know, cannot afford a car seat, you might qualify for a free one through the Alabama Head Injury Foundation. You can contact them at 1-800-823-3818. For advice regarding car seat installation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website has good information regarding the LATCH system now required on car seats.
There is one more key thing- if you are ever involved in a serious car accident, you should replace the car seat. Regardless if the seat looks good to you, the seat did its job in protecting your child once, but there is no guarantee it will perform as admirably a second time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a list of criteria you can use to determine if the accident you were in warrants the need to dispose of a car seat. If you are worried about who will pick up the bill for a new seat, you should verify with your insurance agent that the replacement of a car seat is included during reparations for the accident.
*The age of 15 was used in the statistics because that is where the Child Restraint Law ends. No, it doesn’t mean those of us over the age of 16 are not required to wear a seat belt. It just means that law viewed those up to, and including, the age of 15, as children. The rest of the values used in the queries were Alabama, ages 0-15, and restraint system-use of “None Used”. There may be detractors because “None Used” also encompasses those not killed in a motor vehicle but killed as a result of a motor vehicle.