Zero deaths, zero injuries. This is the goal of NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), Safe Kids Worldwide, American Academy of Pediatrics, everyone here at Diono, injury prevention organizations and safety advocates everywhere. How can we possibly meet such a goal? After all, there are over 1,200 children killed and over 200,000 injured every year in motor vehicle crashes. EVERY YEAR! Those are staggering numbers, and they are only for children from birth to 14. The stats rise far above those numbers for the teen years from 14 to 19. As a CPS advocate, I have always said that if we can start them out properly restrained and educate them from an early age, the teen statistics will decline.
Changing a Mind Set
Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you’re trying to give someone advice on how to keep their kids safe and they respond either defensively or nonchalantly? Maybe they feel guilty for not knowing this important information. Those who brush it off simply live in a world where “nothing can go wrong.” Truth be told, I envy those people sometimes. The word accident is often used when it comes to car crashes. This word implies nothing could have been done to prevent the injury or death. Yes, there are survivable crashes. While you might not be able to prevent a drunk driver from hitting your car, wearing your seat belt and restraining your child properly gives you better odds of walking away from a crash.
Look No Further Than Sweden
Okay it’s a little far, but the internet brings us closer! In Sweden they take driver education much more seriously than we do here in the U.S. There is more than just one simple written test and driving test. To obtain a driver’s license in Sweden you must study for and pass a series of theoretical and practical exams, including an ice-driving/slippery surface driving test.
Would you be surprised to know there are virtually no children dying in car crashes in that country? Astonishing crash statistics show up in Sweden. A little over 300 people in 2010 were killed in traffic crashes in Sweden compared to over 34,000 in the U.S. Of those 300, only 18 were children ages 0-18 years old. It is important to note that Sweden’s serious injury rates have fallen 16% from 2007-2011. Since Sweden’s crash statistics are so low compared to other countries, why aren’t we following at least some of their guidelines when it comes to highway safety? Their most progressive idea of keeping children rear-facing up to at least age 4 has contributed to decreased injuries and almost no deaths. They have been doing this for decades! Here in the U.S., we have finally started to realize the safety benefits and are making the push for rear-facing up to 2 years. However, we get the strangest looks from parents who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, you name it. They are perplexed and puzzled by the idea of keeping our kids rear-facing past age one.
Simply put, a child’s brain, neck and spinal cord are extremely vulnerable and delicate. Rear-facing offers superior protection for the head, neck and spinal cord. After all, it’s easier to fix a broken arm or leg than a broken neck or spine. Sweden has been protecting their children much better than any other country for decades. They understand how to protect children and they follow what we know to be safer. We in the U.S know all of this information. Getting the masses to follow the safer guidelines is a challenge.