School Year Brings Increased Risks For Young Children Traveling In Cars

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

With children traveling to and from school, trauma experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC are reminding drivers of the critical importance of making sure all occupants are properly restrained.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children, with an average of four children under the age of 14 killed per day in the United States. However, properly installed child safety seats can reduce the chance of death by 70 percent in infants and more than 50 percent in toddlers, according to Barbara A. Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital. The problem is that, despite parents’ best intentions, more than three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed.


To highlight these issues, the week of Sept. 21-27 has been designated National Child Passenger Safety Week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Children’s Hospital is one of the busiest pediatric trauma centers in the country, and motor vehicle crashes are, by far and away, the most common and devastating traumas we see, especially involving children who were unrestrained,” Dr. Gaines said. “Even if a parent is just driving a young child a couple of blocks to school, the child must be properly restrained. For a child under 8, this would be a child safety or booster seat and for kids older than 8, a seatbelt.”

As part of a new program, Children’s Hospital has injury prevention experts who visit with all families of patients admitted to the hospital with injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes.

“We meet with the families while they’re still in the hospital and educate them about the best way to restrain young passengers. We make sure they have the proper child safety seat and we make sure it is installed correctly,” said Tracy Petras, child passenger safety coordinator at Children’s Hospital.