According to a recent government study, motor vehicle deaths of children have fallen 43 percent over the last 10 years, largely attributed to the increased use of child safety restraints.
The bad news is that there were still more than 9,000 children who died in crashes during that time, and what’s more, the child safety seats that millions of children are currently using may not be as safe as manufacturers purport.
Our Spruce Pine car accident attorneys note motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of death and serious injury for children under the age of 12 in this country. In North Carolina, children are required to be restrained in either a car or booster seat on every trip through the age of 7 or until they reach 80 pounds. Beyond that, they have to be strapped into a regular adult safety belt. The law also requires children under 5 and weighing less than 40 pounds be seated in the back seat of the vehicle.
Car seat law compliance is reportedly improving, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating 92 percent compliance in 2011, versus 88 percent in 2002.
However, these figures only matter if car seats do the job advertised. A recent recall of some 3.7 million child car seats – which could soon be expanded, according to authorities – indicates that the popular Graco child seats have a defective design flaw that has, in at least one instance, may have proven fatal.
An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that there were more than 6,100 complaints to the company from parents who said they had great difficulty in unlatching the car seat buckle. (The NHTSA received some 135 complaints regarding the issue.) In some cases, the parents were unable to unlatch the belts at all, and had to resort to cutting the seat’s straps. Others said they were able to loosen them enough to maneuver the child out of the seat while the buckle remained latched.
Some parents said they had to get help from emergency personnel following a crash to get their child out. There were some instances in which it took up to 45 minutes to get the child unlatched.
While this doesn’t necessarily affect the child’s safety in the midst of every car accident, it could still be deadly. Investigators and emergency officials have expressed fear that some children would get trapped in the car seats during an emergency. That appears to be exactly what happened in at least one case.
The company has said the problem didn’t pose an unreasonable safety risk. However, the company is now named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit in which parents allege they were unable to quickly unlatch their 2-year-old from her car seat following a crash. She was killed in the car fire that ensued.
Federal authorities are pushing Graco to expand its recall to an additional 1.8 million car seats. The company has so far refused to do this.
While the manufacturer denies the old latches are unsafe, it has redesigned the latches on newer models of its seats. It is offering the new buckles to replace the old ones at no cost.
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800-533-6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid, exclusive of case costs.