Contact Street Smarts
Kids belong in car seat not laps, pt. 2
When I drive in my car, I am shocked to see people holding youngsters in their laps in cars as well as youths about 10 years old sitting in the front seat next to mom or dad. These are dangerous places for kids to be if they get into a crash. To help parents better understand child passenger safety, Street Smarts consulted with Chris Cochran, spokesperson for the California Office of Traffic Safety. The first of this two part series ran Monday. Here's the rest of our conversation: Street Smarts: Babies or toddlers in laps in cars and preteens in the front passenger seat. Comments, please. Cochran: We all have the myth in our heads that we can restrain ourselves or others in case of a crash. Every Mom puts her arm across the kid in the seat next to her in a quick stop. And it's a myth. Anyone who has been in a severe crash knows that you have no control at all over yourself or anyone else. The forces are just too overwhelming for our muscles to have any effect over them. A child -- or anyone else -- not restrained by a seat belt or child safety seat becomes a projectile in whatever direction opposite to the impact. They leave the built-in crumple zones and air bags designed to shield and leave space for our bodies in case of a crash and become subject to whatever is happening to the car or even being ejected. In the case of a child in a lap, no amount of hugging will keep them in your arms. If you are in a front seat, they will be between you and the air bag exploding at 200 mph and designed to fill the space up to your chest. There is a good chance that both you and the child will be killed or severely injured. A child under 4 foot 9 inches and just using a regular seat belt is in danger not only of injuries due to improper placement of the belt on their body, but actually being forced out from under it by the crash. A child under 12 does not have the bone and muscle development to take the impact of a front seat airbag and can be severely injured by it. Street Smarts: Is the problem of improper child restraint getting worse or better? Cochran: In crash studies, the percentage of children who were restrained has been steadily increasing over the years; however, we are still in the low 80 percent, which leaves much room for improvement. Parents and caregivers can find child passenger seat specialists at the local CHP office, fire, police and public health department.