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Protecting Kids in Side-Impact Car Crashes

Seating Strategies May Make a Difference, Studies Show

Sitting in the Rear Row

In another study, Arbogast's team focused on seating arrangements for children aged 4 to 15 during side-impact crashes in passenger cars.

When the kids had seatmates in a vehicle's rear row -- and all were wearing seatbelts -- their injury risk in side impact crashes was 58% lower than when kids had the rear row to themselves, the study shows.

"Occupants are at an increased risk of injury if they sit alone on their row as compared to sitting with other occupants," write the researchers.

No matter where kids sat in the rear row of passenger cars, head injuries were "by far" the most frequent injuries in side-impact crashes, the researchers write. That was especially true for kids in the center seat or on the side of the car that got hit.

In a third study, Arbogast and colleagues found that kids in passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs) were more likely to be seriously injured if their vehicle was hit by a light truck instead of a passenger car or minivan.

All of Arbogast's studies were based on a large database of insurance claims from State Farm Insurance Companies between December 1998 and December 2004.

Seating Your Child Safely

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following guidelines can be used to choose a safety seat that fits your child's age and size:

  • Use a rear-facing seat until your child is at least 1 year and weighs at least 20 pounds.
  • Use a forward-facing seat with harness until your child is too tall or too heavy for the seat.
  • According to the AAP, this is usually at a weight of 40 pounds or when the child's ears reach the top of the car seat -- check the seat instructions to be sure.
  • Use a belt-positioning booster seat until an adult seat belt fits properly -- the child will be about 4 feet 9 inches tall. The AAP says that for children to fit into an adult seat belt, make sue the shoulder belt lies across the chest, the lap belt lies on the upper thighs, and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down.
  • A lap-and-shoulder seat belt can be used by children once the adult seat belt fits properly.

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