One of a parent’s worst fears is anytime their child takes a ride in a vehicle, whether it’s with them or someone else. This bothers them because they know how often auto accidents happen here in Lexington and throughout Kentucky. They worry about their child becoming entangled in a car crash themselves.
National statistics show that parents have a reason to fear every time their child takes a ride in a motor vehicle. The latest data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 1,053 children died in car accidents in 2019. While that number marked a 13% decrease in child traffic fatalities compared to 2010, what’s most sobering is that many, if not all, of these accidents that claimed kids’ lives prematurely, were completely preventable.
Common Causes of Children’s Car Accident Fatalities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that 608 child passengers who lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes nationwide in 2019 were 12 or younger. An additional 91,000 suffered injuries in car accidents that year.
Child Safety Seat Misuse
Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 189.125 (3)(a) outlines how any child under 40″ in height must ride in a car seat. KRS 189.125(3)(b) describes how children seven and under that measure between 40″ and 57″ must ride in a booster seat.
NHTSA statistics show that an alarming 90% of car seats are improperly installed in the U.S. This statistic is concerning considering how car seats are:
- 67% effective at reducing the chances of a child suffering injuries in a crash requiring hospitalization
- 71% effective at ensuring infants don’t lose their lives in auto accidents
- 54% effective in preserving the lives of children ages one to four
Partners of Child Passenger Safety data shows that all but 10% of four- to eight-year-olds who suffer serious or fatal injuries in a car crash do so because they weren’t properly restrained in their booster seats.
Inadequate Seat Belt Use
Data compiled by the CDC suggests that a staggering 38% of child decedents weren’t wearing seat belts when they were involved in an accident that left them seriously injured or claimed their life.
When used properly, seat belts can cut a vehicle occupant’s risk by 50%. However, statistics show that 43% of kids aged eight to 12 that died in car accidents in 2019 were not wearing seat belts at the time the crash that claimed their lives occurred. At least 50% of motorists aged 16-19 that died in traffic accidents in 2019 weren’t wearing seat belts at the time.
Seat belt use is lowest among minors who ride in vehicles with unbelted or intoxicated drivers. Only 67% of children traveling in vehicles with unrestrained motorists are likely to wear seat belts themselves. Only 58% of kids riding in vehicles with drunk or drugged drivers are likely to wear safety restraints.
There’s also a high incidence rate of children not wearing safety restraints unless riding in the front passenger seat of a vehicle and, even if they are, not wearing them properly with the lap and shoulder portion of the belt covering their body.
Placement in an Automobile Matters
A child’s placement in a car can greatly impact their survival rate in a car accident. Children run the risk of suffering debilitating injuries or losing their life if allowed to ride in a car or booster seat in the front passenger section of a vehicle.
Additionally, the deployment of an airbag or the mere forceful impact of a crash can more significantly harm a child. The CDC argues that children 12 and younger are safest in a crash when:
- Buckled in properly in a car or booster seat or safety restraint in a vehicle’s rear seat.
- Seated in the middle-most seat in the back portion of the car.
- Restrained in a seat with a lap and shoulder belt as opposed to one that only buckles at the waist.
- They wear a seat belt on every trip, no matter if it’s an extremely short one down the driveway or street, or a much longer road trip.
Child vehicle occupants are particularly vulnerable to getting severely hurt or dying in accidents where alcohol impairment is involved. Alcohol consumption contributed to at least 23% of U.S. traffic fatalities among children 14 and under in 2019. The child was riding in the car with the intoxicated motorists in at least 64% of those cases.
Children are 21% less likely to wear a seat belt when riding in a car with an intoxicated motorist than a sober one, thus increasing their risk of serious injuries in a crash.
As far as teens are concerned, a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Study revealed that 16.7% of high school students in the U.S. had either driven themselves or taken a ride with a fellow motorist that had consumed alcohol beforehand. Research shows that 24% of crashes that claimed teens’ lives in 2019 were attributable to their own alcohol consumption. At least 60% of them weren’t wearing seat belts when their accident occurred.
Other factors that put any motorist, but specifically teens, at risk of losing their lives in car accidents include:
- Drug intoxication
- Nighttime driving
- Driver inexperience
- Reckless driving, such as speeding and distracted driving
While there’s no going back and doing things differently if you lose a child due to one of the factors above, if someone else’s negligence resulted in your son or daughter’s death here in Lexington, then you may have legal options to pursue to recover compensation for their end-of-life medical expenses, funeral costs, and more by filing a Kentucky wrongful death lawsuit. The Law Office of Todd W. Burris can help.
Is It Safer for Kids to Ride in Passenger Cars or School Busses?
Many school buses still don’t have safety restraints to keep kids in their seats, although that’s quickly changing as school systems replace their fleets. The absence of seat belts makes many Kentucky parents feel uneasy about their kids’ safety when allowing them to ride in school buses. However, NHTSA research suggests that kids are safer riding mass transit like this instead of in passenger cars.
The federal agency determined that there are just over 100 annual school bus crashes nationwide. While many of those do result in fatalities, only 8% of those are school bus occupants themselves. There is a much higher incidence rate of child passenger car occupants losing their lives in crashes like these than when riding in a school bus.
Where To Turn for Help if You’ve Lost a Child in a Car Accident
The senseless loss of a child is undoubtedly difficult to deal with, no matter the circumstances under which it occurs. A loss that could have been prevented had a motorist been more cautious is likely even harder to cope with.
While you can’t turn back the hands of time and bring your child back once they’re gone, Kentucky law allows you to hold a negligent motorist accountable for their negligence by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Statutes of limitations apply in personal injury cases like these, so consult with a car accident attorney at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris as soon as possible to ensure you preserve your rights to take legal action here in Lexington.