Children And Motor Vehicle Accidents
Children In the Street
In a recent study of young children, it was determined that they lack the perceptual skills to interpret street noises that are significant pedestrian safety clues. Street noises, such as motor vehicle engines and tires on pavement which older children and adults understand and react to, are incomprehensible to children younger than 7. Wherefore, the street is a dangerous place for them, resulting in a higher risk to personal injury from a motor vehicle.
It was shown that 8 and 9 year olds heard a vehicle noise before 6 and 7 year olds. Adults heard a vehicle from much further away.
The study, using computers to test reaction times, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, showed that children as young as 10 years old had sufficiently better perception. Why is this important? According to the National Centers for Disease Control, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in 2010, and over 70,000 were injured that year. Thus, a pedestrian is more likely than a passenger it be killed in a motor vehicle collision.
Lesson: teach children to be careful in and near the street but realize that there is no way a young child has the capability to understand and fear the street noises.
Children Inside Motor Vehicles
Second, seat belts. Use them. Teach children that you are using them and that they must use them. Always. The statistics show that seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives in motor vehicle crashes – and motor vehicle collisions are the most common cause of death among all people from ages 5 to 34. Seat belts reduce death and serious injury by 50%. Princess Di?
In a more local, and recent, sad story, a waiter who I know from a Beacon Hill establishment, recently lost his 10 year old son in a motor vehicle collision – he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and flew out the window when the car the father was driving hit a curb on a rainy day. The father? He was wearing a seat belt and suffered only a shoulder injury.
In another case we handled recently, several teenagers were out on a drive. For some reason the car speed up, the driver lost control, and there was a collision. The front passenger was not wearing a seat belt and was killed. The other two passengers were wearing seat belts and are back in school. These cases factor into the statistics that are kept by the National Centers for Disease Control, but they are real. They are friends and clients.
Of course, in Massachusetts it’s the law the children under 13 must wear seat belts, and that children under seven, yes 7, must be in a car seat.
What Can You Do?
Write to your legislator about strengthening the laws on seat belts, driving under the influence, and other safety measures. More importantly perhaps is to teach children how dangerous motor vehicles are, how important seat belts are, and show them by example. Further, don’t drive, and don’t drive in a vehicle, unless everyone is wearing a seat belt. Period.
If you know someone who is a victim in a motor vehicle collision, call us. We have experience since 1985 in representing children in motor vehicle accidents.