By Attorney Roger Scully
As the seasons change and we transition from summer to fall (some of us reluctantly), many of us also experience a change in our daily lives and schedules. Children are back in school and parents’ work demands tend to increase as the holidays approach. As these inevitable changes occur, the need for parents to transport their children, whether it is to school, practice or daycare, becomes more frequent. This being the case, it is imperative for parents to be aware of and to employ proper car safety practices while transporting their children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States during 2014, 602 children ages 12 and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle accidents, making car accidents one of leading causes of death for children under 12 years old. CDC studies also revealed that in 2014, more than 121,350 children under 12 year of age suffered injuries while occupants in cars involved in accidents. In order to lessen these disturbing statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recommends the following to parents while driving with their young children:
- Use proper car seats, booster seats and seat belts in the back seat on every trip. Which option is appropriate will depend on the child’s age, weight and height.
- Use a rear-facing car seat for children under 2 years of age.
- Use forward-facing car seats for children ages 2 through 5
- Use booster seats from age 5 until the seat belt fits properly. Seat belts should fit so that the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest;
- Never sit a child in front of an airbag. Children should ride in the back seat of the car, preferably in the back middle seat as that is the safest place in the car.
- Use the proper restraint system on every trip, no matter how long Install and use car seats according to the owner’s manual or get help with installation from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
- If purchasing or using a pre-owned car seat, be sure to research the make and model to check for any recalls and if necessary contact the manufacturer to obtain an owner’s manual for proper installation and maintenance instructions.
- Set a good example for children and always wear a seatbelt.
Aside from the important safety concerns discussed above, parents can face further consequences for failing to employ proper car safety practices with children. Connecticut law not only requires all drivers to wear seatbelts, it also requires them to ensure that any occupant of their vehicle under 16 years of age wears a seat belt. Connecticut law also requires children less than 6 years of age and under 60 pounds to ride in a proper safety seat. Infants less than 1 year of age and under 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing child seat at all times. Drivers who fail to abide by these laws can face punishment including fines.
Aside from potential criminal liability, the failure to properly secure your child can affect their ability to recover civil damages for injuries they suffer as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Such failures can be viewed as contributing causes of injuries and negate or decrease a civil settlement or verdict.
Injuries to children are some of the most difficult and emotional cases that our firm deals with. We implore parents and guardians to educate themselves on and employ proper car safety practices for children. Unfortunately, even when all proper safety steps are taken, accidents and injuries still occur. If you or your child is injured in a car accident or due to the fault of another person, contact a licensed, experienced attorney.
Roger Scully is an associate attorney at Suisman Shapiro in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. His practice focuses on civil and personal injury litigation and criminal defense. Attorney Scully has extensive jury trial experience. Prior to joining Suisman Shapiro, he served as Assistant District Attorney for the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a diverse range of criminal matters. To contact Roger Scully visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call 860-442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320