In our last post, we considered the new CDC report on the dangers of driving on rural roads, and how it can be up to 10 Times More deadly to cruise on a rural roadway than on a city street or urban expressway.
Part of the CDC’s solution to this problem: seat belts. Apparently, lots of lives would be saved if drivers and passengers wore their seat belts while moving along rural roads.
US-41 and US-45 Here in Indiana and Illinois
Like Indiana’s U.S. 41, considered to be a rural route through the Hoosier State. Statistics show it has 111 fatalities each year, with 106 motor vehicle accidents on average.
In Illinois, U.S. 45 is another deadly and dangerous route. It is averages 100 motor vehicle accidents each year, with 112 fatalities.
Together, Indiana’s US-41 and Illinois’s US-45 are among “The Most Dangerous Highways in America.”
Children in Fatal Car Accidents
One of the most heart-wrenching tragedies in all these statistics is the reality that among these rural road fatalities, there will be infants, youngsters, tweens, and teenagers who perish in the car crash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of children in the United States today.
Of course, children are dependent upon others to keep them safe as they travel in a car, sedan, SUV, pickup truck, minivan, or school bus. Teachers, caregivers, coaches, as well as parents are responsible for making sure each child is safe as their passenger before they take the wheel.
Infants and Young Children
So it is shocking to hear that research has found that 35% of children under the age of 14 years who have died in a tragic motor vehicle accident were without any kind of safety restraint at the time of impact. No car seat, no safety belt.
This, even though it’s been shown that if infants and kids up to the age of 5 years old are in a properly fitted car seat, they will be significantly safer in the event of a crash.
Infants in car seats are 71% more likely to survive the crash; children from 1-4 years of age, 54% more likely to survive.
Risk Factors for Children in a Car Crash
Children are dependent upon the driver to protect them, under the law. Minor passengers face special risks, according to the CDC, because of this dependency. These include:
The CDC reports that older kids and tweens (8-12 years old) are less likely to be wearing safety belts in a crash than younger kids. Around three-quarters of kids under the age of 4 years are protected in the vehicle before it hits the road, but less than half of the older kids are secured before take-off.
Another sad statistic: when there is a fatal drunk driving crash involving a child, it’s very likely that the child’s driver was driving under the influence at the time of the accident.
The CDC reports that 65% of fatal child crashes involving alcohol were caused by the drunk driver operating the car of the child passenger.
Moreover, most of these kids were placed in the car unprotected. For child fatalities in drunk driving crashes where the victim was under the age of 15 years old, 61% were not secured in the vehicle as a child passenger.
If the driver prefers to ride without a seat belt, for whatever reason, then it’s more likely that he or she will refrain from restraining the child passenger. CDC data shows almost 40% of child fatalities were riding as unrestrained passengers with a driver who was not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.
Finally, well-meaning drivers may make mistakes as they place infants and small children into child safety seats (car seats, booster seats). Either they are installed improperly into the vehicle, or the child is not properly secured in the seat. According to the CDC almost half (46%) of child safety seats are “misused” in some way.
State Laws Require Children be Protected When Traveling in Motor Vehicles
Both Indiana and Illinois have state laws that mandate children be safeguarded and protected when they are passengers in a motor vehicle traveling within the state’s jurisdiction.
Illinois Child Restraint Laws
In the State of Illinois, the Child Passenger Protection Act makes it a crime not to properly protect children in moving motor vehicles within the state’s jurisdiction.
This means that infants under the age of 1 or babies weighing less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing infant seat. Other criteria include (1) rear-facing safety seats should recline 30-45 degrees and (2) the baby’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the safety seat when rear-facing.
When the child is over 20 pounds, then a forward-facing seat with a harness system can be used. Again, there are legal specifics like “the top of the child’s ears should not be above the top of the car seat when forward-facing.”
For children age 4 and older, they must remain in a safety seat or booster seat until they grow to a size where “they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.”
Indiana Child Restraint Laws
According to Indiana statutes, it is against the law to drive in Indiana without children under the age of 7 years secured and restrained in the vehicle.
How the child is protected depends upon weight. Under 20 pounds, the child (including infants) must be in a rear-facing child safety seat. Over 20 pounds and the child can be placed in a front-facing seat with the appropriated belting (harness).
Booster seats are okay once the child weighs 30 pounds, but the Indiana State Police advise that the better course is to wait on the booster seat until the child grows to weigh 40 pounds.
Older children (up to 16 years old) must wear safety belts.
Child Car Crash Claims: Seeking Justice after a Tragedy
For parents who have lost a child in a motor vehicle accident, nothing can truly recompense them for their loss and bring them complete justice for what has happened. However, there are laws that allow these grieving parents to insure that those responsible for the crash are held to answer for it.
Both the driver who caused the accident, as well as any driver who may have been responsible for the child passenger at the time of the crash, can be held legally liable for the child’s wrongful death.
Similarly, children who have been seriously injured in an auto accident may have legal claims for damages to assert against those responsible for the crash and those with a duty to keep them safe as passengers. Here, not only immediate emergency medical care but long term physical therapy and rehab costs may be recovered as legal damages in the personal injury claim made on behalf of the injured child.
It’s important to keep our children safe on our roadways, especially on rural routes here in Indiana and Illinois. Let’s be careful out there!