Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death from unintentional injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2010, auto accidents were the number one or number two killer across all age groups, with the exception of infants younger than 12 months, in which automobile accidents were third. For the youngest infants, the top two killers are accidental suffocation and homicide.[caption id="attachment_1835" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Image Credit: SafeKidsOK.org[/caption]While car accidents were second to unintentional drowning in children aged 1-4, second to accidental poisoning (including drug overdose) in adults aged 25-64, and second to accidental falls in adults aged 65 and older as a leading cause of death, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in children and young adults aged 5-24.The CDC reported last year that children's accidental deaths decreased an astounding 30 percent in the first decade of the millenium, and their report credits improved use of car seats and child safety seats, as well as a graduated driver's licensing system, for a 41 percent decline in motor vehicle crash deaths among children and young adults aged 1-19.Most people are aware that Oklahoma has a seat belt law, a so-called "nanny law" that requires drivers and front seat passengers aged 13 and older to wear a seat belt. Oklahoma's seat belt law is a primary law, meaning a police officer can pull over a vehicle and issue a citation for a seat belt infraction alone. The seat belt violation does not have to be secondary to another traffic violation.While the seat belt law applies to teens and adults aged 13 and older, children aged 12 and younger are covered by the Oklahoma Mandatory Child Restraint Law. Following are three basic provisions of that law:
- Children aged 12 and younger are to be properly restrained in a child or infant car seat, booster seat, or seat belt.
- Children aged 5 and younger must be in a car seat or booster seat.
- It is the responsibility of the driver to insure that all children are properly restrained in the vehicle.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma law leaves significant gaps in the protection of children in vehicles. Children aged 13-15 riding in the backseat are not covered by either the Oklahoma Seat Belt Law or the Mandatory Child Restraint Law. Furthermore, ambiguity in the law would allow may affect the safety of babies in car seats:Every driver, when transporting a child under six (6) years of age in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state, shall provide for the protection of said child by properly using a child passenger restraint system. For purposes of this section and Section 11-1113 of this title, "child passenger restraint system" means an infant or child passenger restraint system which meets the federal standards as set by 49 C.F.R., Section 571.213.This phrasing would technically allow an infant to ride in a forward facing car seat if the seat was designed for forward facing use, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that children remain in a rear facing car seat until at least age 2 or the weight limit allowed by the seat. Previously, the AAP recommended infants remain rear facing until they were at least one year of age and 20 pounds; however, many people viewed turning their child forward facing at one to be a milestone, rather than a minimum recommendation, prompting the AAP to change their recommendation in the interest of child safety.Oklahoma roads will always carry the possibility of reckless, drunk, or distracted drivers. Seat belts and appropriate child safety seats are the best ways to guard against serious injury and death from motor vehicle accidents. If, despite your best efforts at safety, you or your loved ones have been injured in a car accident, find an Oklahoma auto accident attorney through our personal injury website.