Kids and Cars: Automotive Injuries

As a parent, I know the worries about keeping a child safe. From their first trip home from the hospital to the simple act of crossing the street, to be a parent is to worry. Did I buy the right car seat? Are they looking both ways? And some day, will I make clear the responsibilities that come with the privilege of driving?

At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we work to help parents keep their kids safe across every stage of a child’s development: from the infant and the toddler all the way up to the teenager just learning to drive. We want them to have the tools and knowledge they need to stay safe and hope they will never, ever, have to see the inside of a trauma center.

Yet we lose nearly 10,000 children each year due to traumatic injury, a large percentage of whom suffered due to motor vehicle crashes.

In 2012, roughly one-in-ten people killed in traffic fatalities were under the age of 18. That year alone, we lost 2,980 children and young people to injuries in traffic crashes that were completely preventable.

That is why we are doing more at NHTSA to keep our kids safe from harm.

We’ve been working hard to better protect a vehicle’s most vulnerable occupants—infants and toddlers—by improving standards for child seats. NHTSA is taking a significant step forward in the protection of children by proposing upgrades to the federal motor vehicle safety standard for child restraint systems.

The proposed upgrades would include the first ever side impact crash test for car seats sold in the U.S. that are designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds. The tests would use both an existing 12-month-old child crash test dummy, and a newly-developed side impact dummy representing a 3-year-old.

Parents, guardians and care providers can search for current vehicle and child seat safety recalls and find where they can get help installing child car seats at and through our Safercar app, which is available for iPhone and for Android devices.

On the other end of the child development spectrum, NHTSA is working to help families discuss safety with their young driver through our 5 to Drive campaign.

5 to Drive is about getting parents and guardians to engage in an ongoing discussion with teens about safe driving. And it needs to happen right now because we’re losing too many young people in crashes that are 100 percent preventable.

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of 14- to 18-year-olds
  • In 2011, more than 2,300 people were killed in crashes involving a teen (14 to 18) driver
  • Nearly 60 percent of those killed were teen drivers and teen passengers

Despite the dangers to our young people, a recent survey reported that only 25 percent of parents had a driving safety discussion with their young driver. If we’re to save lives, that discussion has to start today with the help of 5 to Drive.

I appreciate the hard work of the women and men of the Childress Institute, your advocacy on behalf of the health and safety of young people, and for the opportunity to discuss these issues and advances in automotive safety. Together, as partners in protecting children, Childress and NHTSA can help to save lives, and to ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy, and to fulfill their enormous potential.

by David Friedman, Acting Administrator, NHTSA


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