Children's bodies are inherently more fragile than adults. Their bones are softer, smaller, and more susceptible to impact forces than hardened adult bones. In addition, the younger the child is the greater the risk for serious neck, head, and internal injuries. Since the spine is still in the process of fusing and the skull is still very soft, the impact of a car crash can cause catastrophic damage to a baby's body. A force that causes a little whiplash for you could actually break a child's neck.
However, by properly restraining your child in an appropriate car seat, these risks can be drastically lowered. Just as you should always wear a seatbelt, your child should always be restrained properly for his size, weight, and age to avoid serious consequences.
The Importance of Children's Car Seats
Although car seats can be pricey, the cost is nothing compared to what you may lose without one. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 650 children (aged newborn to 12 years) died in car accidents in 2011 as a result of being improperly restrained in a car seat. If that isn't worrisome enough, an additional 148,000 were injured for the same reason. This is why all 50 states agree that safety seats should be required and enforced for infants and children fitting specific criteria.
The hope is that by using a car seat and then a booster seat, you can help save your child's life in the event of an accident because they provide the following security:
- Head support: even small impacts can cause harmful vibrations and violently shake a vehicle. The car seat adds support for your child's head and prevents those vibrations from causing serious head and neck injuries.
- Body Support: car seats provide extra protection for your baby's neck and spine by supporting his entire back. Rear facing car seats also allow force to be absorbed by the seat, pushing your baby further into the comfort and support of the seat itself.
- Force protection: harnesses and tethers keep impact forces from jostling and catapulting your child from his seat.
- Seatbelt injury protection: if your child is too short to be able to wear a seatbelt properly, a car seat or booster will raise him so that the belt lays where it is supposed to.
Remember, you never know when you may get into a car accident. Even a minor fender bender could seriously injure a child who is not properly restrained, so make sure that you protect your child as best as you can by securing him in the right car seat.