Thursday, July 9, 2009

"When I was a kid..." doesn't cut it with car seat safety.

I was pleased to read this post on the Kyle David Miller Foundation Blog recently, about how practices that seemed safe a long time ago are now known to be unsafe. Think about how much more we know today, about cigarettes, asbestos, pre-natal healthcare, bisphenol A! I wrote a similar piece as a press release last year, and posted it on the website. Same idea, with data and footnotes. Here it is, in case you missed it: July 8, 2008 "Back in the day..." is no excuse for slacking on safety.

Many people dismiss car seat safety, saying, “When I was a kid, we didn’t ride in car seats, and we turned out fine.” They go on: "We sat five across on a bench seat, no belts... My parents took me home in a laundry basket on the floor of the back seat... I used to ride in the front seat between my mother and father..." (Of course, the voices of those who were not so lucky to have "turned out fine" are not being considered!) While skeptics may use their own childhood experiences as references, they should remember that it’s not just the type or number of products that's different: The nature of driving itself has changed significantly in the past 30 years:

1. There are 300% MORE CARS on US roads now than when we were kids.

According the Federal Highway Authority, the number of passenger vehicles has steadily risen, from 74 million in 1960 to over 231 million in 2004.(1) That means more traffic, more congestion, less parking, and more road rage. And drivers' attention is more divided than ever, with cell phones, DVD players, GPS systems -- not to mention non-technical distractions like eating, putting on makeup, or settling arguments between backseat passengers. Every one of these can be a factor in a collision.

2. The average US motor vehicle is nearly 20% HEAVIER than the ones we used to ride in.

According to the Center for Auto Safety, the weight of the average passenger car increased from 3,227 pounds in 1980 to 3,868 pounds in 2000. (2) Even at relatively low speeds like 30 miles per hour, the 600+ pound increase in one or more of the cars’ weight could dramatically increase the damage of a crash. Add to that the wider range of weights in the vehicles on today’s roads (from the Honda Civic DX at 2,628 pounds (3), to the AWD Cadillac Escalade at 5,708 pounds (4)), and the possibilities for injuries and fatalities are even greater.

3. The average American child spends MORE TIME in the car than ever.

The National Household Travel Study, released in 2003, found that three fourths of children aged 5 and younger rode in private cars daily, averaging 65 minutes per day. In reporting the study, the Washington Post wrote that younger children, not yet in school, probably spend significantly more time in the car than that. (5) Those with stay at home parents go wherever (and whenever) Mom or Dad goes, and those with working parents often drive with them to day care near the workplace. Suburban sprawl also makes a difference: "Fetching a carton of milk used to mean toting children along to the corner store. Now it means strapping them in for a 20-minute drive to K-Mart." (6) The more time spent in the car, the more risk of being in a collision. That's why most car crashes tend to happen close to home, not on the highway -- we spend more time close to home!

Safety improvements like seat belts, air bags and car seats have helped decreased the number of deaths over the past 30 years, but motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. (7) They still cause about 25% of injury deaths among children 12 and younger. (8) We all have anecdotes about how our childhoods were simpler. Some may argue that the old days were better, and in many ways, they were. But there is no question that advancements in technology and communications have also enhanced (and prolonged) our lives. So resist the temptation to disregard today’s safety advice. Make sure your kids stay safe whenever they are in a car, so that in years to come (when their world is unrecognizable to us!), they, too, will be talking about "back in the day."

SOURCES: 1 US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, number of motor vehicles since 1960. 2 Statements of Clarence M. Ditlow, Director, Center for Auto Safety, to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, December 6, 2001. 3 US News & World Report, Automotive Rankings & Reviews, 2008. 4, 2008 AWD Escalade, Vehicle Information, Curb Weight 5, “The Road Too Much Traveled: For Many Children, Drive Time Just Keeps Going,” January 27, 2003 6, January 27, 2003 7 CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from URL: [2008 May 5].8 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Atlanta, GA. Available:

(This article was originally published on About Donna Eng: Donna Eng is the inventor of the Car Seat Poncho, and the CEO of H Barry Boo LLC. She invented the Car Seat Poncho at her dining room table, after searching in vain for a product that would keep her son both safe and warm in his convertible car seat. Prior to founding H Barry Boo, Eng had a 15-year career in advertising and market research. About the Car Seat Poncho: The Car Seat Poncho is the safe alternative to a coat for children who ride in a convertible car seat. Regular winter coats are often too thick to allow the safety harness to fasten properly, which could lead to the ejection in a crash. The Car Seat Poncho is the easy way to keep a child safe and warm in the car seat, and is more convenient than a coat because it can be worn outside of the car as well. The Car Seat Poncho is available online at, and is patent pending.

1 comment:

  1. Donna - this is a wonderful follow-up to our piece. Would you mind if I link to it in that post as an update?