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Protecting Your Child When Driving

By Insurance.com Posted : 02/28/2007
Drive with peace of mind, knowing you're doing everything you can to protect your child's life when you're behind the wheel of the family car. Remember – that's precious cargo you're transporting in your back seat. Make sure your children are properly secured, before you start the car.

Buckle up for some sobering statistics on highway deaths, figures that underscore the importance of using proper child restraints for young passengers – a child car seat, booster, or seat belt.

In 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were a total of 42,643 traffic fatalities in the United States. The age group of children up to 14 years old accounted for 5 percent (2,136) of those traffic fatalities.

An insurance trade organization official focused on why many children die in vehicular crashes. "…Kids typically die because they were out of position, meaning that the child in the seat belt, car seat, or booster was either not properly put into the restraint or the child got out of the restraint," according to Dan Kummer, director of personal lines-auto for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), headquartered in Illinois.

Consider sound advice from Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in Virginia. Many children who die in vehicular crashes were riding completely unrestrained, said Rader. "Riding unrestrained in a motor vehicle always has been the greatest hazard for children."

Rader and the American Insurance Association's David Snyder both emphasized the importance of children riding in the back seat of a car. Rader identifies the back seat as the safest spot for young passengers. "This was true before airbags, and now it's doubly true. Infants and children riding in back seats cannot be in the paths of inflating airbags," said Rader.

Snyder brought up a second reason. The back seat generally affords more distance before you hit anything hard. And, secondly, the child is less likely to hit the airbag, which can cause injury, said Snyder, vice president and assistant general counsel at AIA, in Washington, D.C.

All states have child restraint laws for riding in automobiles, with most covering children of all ages but some only address specific age groups. Thus, there can be a gap in a state law impacting children in, say, the six to 12 age group categories. These are kids who may be too big for child safety seats and too small to fit into vehicle-equipped seat belts meant for older children and adults.
An insurance industry executive explains why booster seats are important to child safety in automobiles. Booster seats are valuable because they boost your children up about four inches, enabling them to correctly fit into your car seat belts, says Carolyn Gorman, vice president in the Washington, D.C., office of the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Make no mistake – using child safety seats in automobiles won't necessarily lead to a reduction in your auto insurance premium. Various factors go into determining what rates you pay for car insurance, said Kummer, who named some - type of vehicle, a driver's hometown, number of miles driven annually, and driving record, to name a few. "Child safety issues relate to saving lives, and policyholders who don't become involved in accidents tend to pay less for auto insurance coverage than those who have faced tragedy from highway crashes," Kummer maintained.

Kummer's take on car insurance premiums gets no argument from III's Carolyn Gorman. Motorists get better insurance rates if they have a clean driving record and aren't involved in any accidents on the roadways, Gorman says. "There are no studies that I know of on the correlation between a driver's use of child safety restraints in automobiles and auto accidents, but one might conclude that those who takes steps to protect their children and other passengers in their cars are, indeed, safety conscious and are more likely to have good driving records than those who speed along the highways without wearing seatbelts."

Lastly, keep in mind some travel advice from insurance industry spokesman Tully Lehman. As a case in point, Lehman singled out section 27365 of the California motor vehicle code that stipulates that every car rental agency in California must inform customers that state law requires all children under 6 years of age who weigh less than 60 pounds to be transported in the back seat of the vehicle in a child restraint system.

In California, the car rental agency is required to provide for rental a child restraint system if the customer does not have one available, said Lehman. "Regardless of which state you and your family visit, if you're renting a car there, be sure to know the rules of the road as they apply to child safety seats, because if only for the safety of your child, you'll want to be in compliance with applicable state regulations or laws."

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