Of all the things you could do to keep your child safe, none is easier or more effective than ensuring that your child always wears their seatbelt. There are around 6 million motor vehicle accidents each year in the United States, and around 1,500 kids under the age of 16 die in car crashes each year, making car accidents the leading cause of accidental death in children over age four.
The Importance of Seatbelts
Seat belts save the lives of passengers big and small every day. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety belts saved 15,147 American lives in 2007 alone. (March 2009 Consumer Reports, p. 7) Yet it’s also estimated that this same year, another 5,000 crash deaths would have been prevented if occupants had been wearing their seatbelts. (Copeland, 2009) Fifty-five percent of those killed in passenger vehicles are not buckled up, and government data shows that around 45 million Americans do not use their seatbelts regularly.
Child Seatbelt Use
People are 16 times more likely to be killed in an accident if they are not buckled up. Yet despite this, far too many parents remain lax in enforcing seatbelt use with their kids. Some disturbing studies have found that as many as half of all American children (around 20 million youngsters) do not buckle up regularly or sometimes go without wearing their seatbelt. Consider this in light of the fact that children can and have been killed even in non-collision accidents at speeds as little as 10 or 15 miles per hour, because a parent slammed on the brakes and a child was who was standing was thrown head first into the dashboard. If you were to take a dashboard and swing it at the head of a 250 pound man, it could do serious damage. It easily does the same to a small child.
Seatbelt Safety for Kids
- Insist on seatbelt use with your kids, all the time, no exception. If the car is running, they need to be buckled up no matter how far or fast you are going. If a child unbuckles while you’re driving, pull the car over to a safe area and do not get going again until they are buckled up.
- Do not let children unbuckle on long trips, even for a little while. This is one of the biggest mistakes safety experts see parents make, and every year it leads to the death of many children who had unbuckled for “just a moment” that happened to be the crucial moment when an accident occurred.
- Talk with your kids about the importance of wearing their seatbelt when riding in someone else’s car, even when those people aren’t wearing theirs.
Encouraging Kids to Wear Their Seatbelts
- If you want your children to buckle up, set the example yourself. Studies show that children who are raised in households where the adults don’t wear their seatbelts are much more likely not to wear them themselves.
- Give children this example about the importance of seatbelt use: If they are not wearing a seatbelt during an accident, even if the car isn’t going very fast, it can be like someone swinging a 2 x 4 at their body. That’s how fast they’ll be thrown into the dashboard or front seat. Or ask them if they would like to ride their bicycle as fast as they could into a wall. Even at low speeds cars can travel much faster than bikes do, and a crash without a seatbelt would be like throwing yourself into a wall.
- Read your kids our child safety book: Why Do We Wear Our Seatbelts?
Child Seatbelt Use Facts and Statistics
Seatbelt usage continues to improve each year, but there are still many areas for improvement:
- Black and Hispanic children continue to have the lowest rates of child restraint use.
- Grandparents are less likely to properly strap in youngsters with restraints than are parents. (Time, Aug. 8, 2011,)
- Seatbelt use in the backseat continues to lag about 10% behind seatbelt use in the front seat (Silke-Carly, 2009)
- Two-thirds of teens involved in nighttime crashes are not wearing their seatbelt (NBC Nightly News, 5-24-09)