As readers know, I am not a doctor. Occasionally, though, as CPSTs we must consider certain medical conditions that influence the safety or children as vehicle passengers. Fortunately, there’s no need for CPSTs to hold a medical degree; simply follow the advice of doctors regarding the relevant symptoms of a diagnosis and how they might influence a child’s safety (either in a crash or during normal riding). To guide us, we are fortunate to have peer-reviewed scientific studies and policy statements from the medical community.
In October, a study was published that predicted that 42 percent of the time, vehicles and CRs are somehow incompatible. The study, “Investigation of Child Restraint System Compatibility in the Vehicle Seat Environment,” by Ohio State College of Medicine’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center, used measurements of 59 current CRs and 61 late model vehicles to evaluate over 3,599 possible CR/vehicle combinations and predict likely incompatibilities. To validate the results, researchers conducted physical installations of 34 of the scenarios.
In April 2012, the IIHS reported on findings from a joint LATCH-use study it conducted with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. “Keys to Better LATCH” identified and measured key factors in the usability of LATCH and then studied volunteers to see how these factors predicted the quality of CR installations.
In 2014, the IIHS published two follow-up reports (one on LA attachment use and the other on tether use), which further affirmed the findings of the 2012 study. The studies help prepare the IIHS for a possible next step, which is to explore a ratings system to evaluate LATCH setups in common family vehicles.
Despite claims, most products currently marketed to restrain pets in vehicles can, at best, prevent them from moving about the vehicle during normal driving. While keeping a pet from distracting a driver is extremely worthwhile, the Center for Pet Safety (the Center), a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, seeks to promote the development of devices that do more to actually protect pets and other passengers in a crash. The Center’s founder, Lindsey Wolko, recently stated in an interview with Motor Trend magazine that her organization has been actively advocating for the establishment of safety standards for pet products since 2011.
A new study of 267 newborn infants who were discharged from Oregon Health and Science University Hospital between November 2013 and May 2014 shows that almost all (93 percent) of the parents made significant errors in CR use or installation.
A 2006 study using 2004 data found that, in New York City alone, there were 25 taxi/livery crashes every day that caused injury. That study also found that when taxis were involved in a crash, the taxi passengers were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed than the passengers in the other vehicle in the crash.
So, best practice in taxis (and, in some states, the law) is to use a CR. Dr. Alisa Baer, pediatrician and cofounder of The Car Seat Lady, posts excellent advice on this subject at www.thecarseatlady.com.
Although it is always safer to ride in a vehicle’s back seat, the relative benefits today decline for children as they age, particularly after they have transitioned out of a CR. This is the overall finding of a Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) study of the state of science on the safety of children and youth in the rear seats of vehicles. CIRP, a group that is part of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, published the findings in its April 2013 CPS Issue Report. “Optimizing the Rear Seat for Children” includes extensive review of the scientific literature relevant to this subject since 2001.
A study by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm insurance shows that teens who drive in states with primary seat belt law enforcement are more likely to buckle up than those in states with secondary enforcement.* It also found that teens buckle up more often while driving (82 percent) than as passengers (69 percent).
Dr. Winston is a board-certified practicing pediatrician, biomechanical engineer, and clinical researcher. She is the founder and co-scientific director of The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Since 1997, CPSTs have helped families safely navigate occupant protection for children with measurable results. Motor vehicle crashes are no longer the leading cause of death for children under age 4.* We have tracked steady increases in appropriate restraint use and a corresponding drop in fatalities—from about 2,000 per year in the 1990s to fewer than 1,100 in 2009 for children less than 16 years old.
One of the many benefits of attending a national conference like Lifesavers is the opportunity to hear leading policymakers communicate what they perceive to be our top safety priorities. One plenary session at Lifesavers this past April featured a panel discussion with leaders in the areas of roadway improvements, vehicle technologies, and occupant behaviors. During another, the new NHTSA head, David Strickland, took advantage of his first opportunity to address the Lifesavers group to lay out his goals and strategies.
I heard many familiar messages at these sessions: Driver distraction (in particular, texting) is a major area of concern; motorcycle fatalities are alarmingly high; drunk drivers are still major contributors to crashes, as are teen drivers. Basic problems like speeding and seat belt use also were mentioned as major areas of focus.