Deaths among children age 12 and younger in motor vehicle crashes decreased by 43 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to information released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, more than 9,000 children still died in crashes during that period, according to a new Vital Signs report from the CDC.

Research shows that using age- and size-appropriate child restraints — car seats, booster seats and seat belts — are the best ways to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash.

Yet the report found that almost half of all black (45 percent) and Hispanic (46 percent) children who died in crashes were not buckled up, compared to 26 percent of white children between 2009 and 2010.

Staff members at McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White see their fair share of children who were in vehicle accidents and sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the child was restrained or not, said Dr. Dominic Lucia, the hospital’s medical director of emergency medicine. “We have to go by the history the parent is able to give us.”

Some of the families may not have the appropriate car seats, while others may not use the seats properly or have them installed properly, Lucia said.

“You see that a lot,” he said. “The seat is there, but it’s not being used in the way it should.”

For parents, it’s a matter of not being vigilant, Lucia said. Nobody ever thinks it’s going to happen to them.

Five-point restraint

Car seats with five-point restraint harnesses are a necessity for young children, because they account for the head to body mass ratio difference.

If the child is wearing only a lap belt when an accident occurs, internal damage may occur because the belt will ride up to the chest.

It’s not uncommon to see young children walking around in the back of moving car and it’s so disturbing, Lucia said, because he’s seen the other side of the tragedy, both for the children and the parents.

In 2011, one in three children who died in crashes was not buckled up.

Only two out of every 100 children live in states that require car seat or booster seat use for children age 8 and younger.

Among states that increased the required car seat or booster seat age to 7 or 8 years, car seat and booster seat use tripled, and deaths and serious injuries decreased by 17 percent.

The best seats are the ones that will be used — every trip, every time.

Fitting stations

Some parents don’t know the correct way to install a car seat, don’t realize the danger they are placing their children in, or don’t have access to the proper resources, said Susan Burchfield, supervisor of trauma injury prevention outreach at Scott & White Healthcare and coordinator of Safe Kids Mid-Texas region.

McLane Children’s has fitting stations for car seats twice a month — from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday, and from 4 to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday. Appointments are preferred so resources are available. Call Burchfield at 254-724-1431.

Some car seats are available for families and are made possible from private donations to Safe Kids.

“It’s so very important that parents realize that it matters; children will be safe if they are properly restrained,” Burchfield said.

In 2013, Safe Kids checked 397 car seats and 262 new seats were given out locally.

“No child should die in a motor vehicle crash because they were not properly buckled up and yet, sadly, it happens hundreds of times each year in the U.S.,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director.

Many of these tragedies are preventable when parents use the appropriate child restraints, Frieden said.

“We’ve seen children who have been in a crash and the car seat is what saved them,” Burchfield said. “We know we’re making a difference.”

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