Everyone knows that car accidents can prove dangerous and even deadly to children. To combat this risk, there are things we can all do: we can take the time to buckle kids up or put them in child safety seats. We can drive slow and drive defensively and watch carefully for any oncoming harms. Though these steps have been proven, over and over again, to save lives, not all parents have heeded safety warnings.
The lack of attention paid to some common safety suggestions has resulted in serious consequences for many families across the country and, specifically, across Mississippi. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics contained some especially stunning conclusions. The authors determined that more children die in Mississippi as a result of car accidents each year on a per capita basis than in any other state. That’s right, Mississippi is the deadliest place in the country, accounting for population, for children when it comes to car accidents.
Another troubling revelation is that Mississippi children led the nation in terms of the percent who were not properly restrained at the time of a car accident. The numbers tell a pretty horrifying tale: in Mississippi, 3.23 children die in motor vehicle accidents per 100,000. The lowest state in the country, Massachusetts, saw a death rate of 0.25 children per 100,000, dramatically lower.
In terms of the proper restraint rate, 38 percent of the children in Mississippi involved in fatal accidents were not properly restrained at the time. That means that they were either not buckled up at all or were buckled up improperly. Contrast this astounding number with only 2 percent, the rate of improperly restrained children in fatal accidents in New Hampshire.
Experts say that the recent study perfectly highlights the benefit of proper safety restraints. Putting children in safety seats and making older children buckle up isn’t just a good idea, it’s essential. Ensuring that your children are properly restrained save lives. Period. In 2015, 78 teenagers between 15 and 20 years old died in Mississippi car accidents. The majority, 51 percent, died because they weren’t properly restrained or not restrained at all. That means dozens more teens might be alive and with their families today had they simply taken the time to buckle up.
So what can be done about this? The good news is that there are steps to be taken to improve compliance and Mississippi’s legislature has taken notice. Starting July 1 of this year, a new law, known as Harlie’s Law, will go into effect. The bill, which was signed earlier this year by the governor, requires that all passengers in a car wear a properly fastened seat belt or child safety seat. Previously, the rule in Mississippi was that only those in the front seat of the vehicle or children younger than 7 had to be properly restrained. The hope is that this sends a strong message to drivers across the state who take the time to teach good habits to their children.
If you have been injured in a Mississippi car, motorcycle or tractor-trailer accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi personal injury attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley at (601) 856-7800.