Baltimore Auto Safety Update: Doctors Press Maryland’s Legislature to Change Child Safety Seat Standards

As we have reported on in the past, our children are some of the most innocent of victims when it comes to traffic accidents here in Maryland and across the U.S. as a whole. Anything that can be done to better protect these youngsters from injury or death as a result of a car, bus or trucking-related accident would be well worth the time and effort expended on such an endeavor.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my staff of legal professionals are dedicated to our clients, many of whom have been hurt or injured as a result of another driver’s negligence or thoughtlessness. Whether those actions involve deliberate flouting of our traffic laws or other statutes created to make our society a safer place; or if the defendant was simply not paying attention to the job of driving a motor vehicle correctly, a personal injury lawsuit is often called for.

Many times, victims and their families are left to foot the bill for thousands of dollars of medical bills and physical rehabilitation costs following an injury-related traffic collision. Insurance companies will often try to lessen the payout, which leaves those injured victims with little or no option. For families with small children, the last thing anyone wants is for that little boy or girl to be hurt in a car or truck crash.

Many parents already do as much as they can to protect their kids; with the use of car seats and other safety-related regimens when transporting their children to and from pre-school, day care and other family activities. What may come as a surprise is that the State of Maryland has been asked by a group of doctors to adopt more stringent guidelines for using child safety seats in motor vehicles.

According to news reports, the Maryland State Medical Society is pushing our state’s legislature to update guidelines on car seats use in order to better protect toddlers from head, neck and spinal injuries in the event of a traffic wreck. More commonly known as “MedChi,” the group is calling for the adoption of various recommendations that came out of the made American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011.

Among the recommendations is the extending of the age that children can move from a rear-facing child safety seat to a front-facing arrangement. The academy has also reportedly recommended that children should remain in the back seat until they are a bit older. These suggested changes to the current safety seat rules come after researchers found that children were less likely to be killed or severely injured under more strict use standards. According to statistics, about 1,500 kids in the U.S. are killed every year in automobile crashes.

Experts remind that Maryland law does not specifically state when a youngster no longer has to be seated in a rear-facing child safety seat; the law simply states that “infants be placed in a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved child seat. The ubiquitous one-year age limit for rear-facing safety seats currently used by most parents comes from pediatricians, who typically tell mothers and fathers to keep their under-one-year-old children in a rear-facing position.

Under the recommendations supported by MedChi, and which are being pushed for in terms of legislation, children less than two years old will be require to ride in a rear-facing car seat. This recommendation comes from research that determined two-yea-olds and under had a 75-percent less chance of being killed or severely injured in a traffic accident when they were riding in a rearward-facing child safety seat.

It is instructive to note that medical researchers stated that this move will be better for young children, especially since those under two-year-old had a proportionally heavier head than older children, and that these toddlers’ spinal cords are also not as well developed. If an under-two-year-old child is in a front-facing seat during an crash, his or her head may pull forward, possibly injuring the child’s spine or even breaking the child’s neck. A rear-facing seat helps to maintain the child’s position from head to toe, thus reducing the risk of injury that a front-facing seat cannot offer.

There is also a new recommendation for how long a child should continue to be in a safety seat; according to reports, the proposed legislation would keep the minimum height requirement for children needing to be placed in a safety seat at under 4-foot 9-inches. Proposed legislation would eliminate the current weight-based requirement of “under 65 pounds” because experts say that height is the more important factor — this is due to the fact that a person using a seat belt/should harness restraint needs to be a certain height (4-foot 9-inches and over) for safety belts to function properly in a crash; weight has less to do with the safety equation than height, according to experts.

In addition to the safety seat issue, children under the age of 13-years-old will be required by law to ride in the back seat of a car here in Maryland. As it stands now, this 13-and-under rule is only a recommendation. Whether the state legislature adopts all or some of the recommendations has yet to be seen, but increased safety in any form is better than none at all.

Doctors’ group pushes for new child safety seat standards in Maryland,, January 31, 2012

Contact Information