|05-02-2002, 11:10 AM||#1|
The Most Dangerous Seat In The Car
The Most Dangerous Seat In The Car
The deadliest place for a child to sit in a car is the rear middle seat with only a lap belt to protect him or her, 10News reported.
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"Any seat in a vehicle can be dangerous. If you want to talk about the most dangerous seat, it would probably be rear position with a lap belt only," said Jim Bolen of the San Diego Police Department traffic division.
In a "lap belt only seat" simulated head-on collision, the child doesn't fly out of the car, but bends almost in half, 10News reported. The action causes tearing of the spinal column around the waist.
On a November night 14 years ago, the Miller family learned all too painfully what can happen to a child in the rear middle seat.
"I remember hearing the sounds of a helicopter, I remember hearing Richard ask 'Help me Mama. Help me Mama.' And I remember not hearing from James," Patricia Miller said, referring to her twin 11-year-old sons.
Patricia Miller had been sitting next to her husband in the front passenger seat when a car slammed into their Ford Escort on Nov. 13, 1988.
"A lady who had mismatched tires on her car was going around the road a little too fast and, as fate would have it, she hit us head-on. The rest is history," Richard Miller told 10News.
The crash totaled the car that hit them, and crushed in the front end of their Escort. The lap belts severed the twin boys' spinal cords.
Richard, now 24, lived to tell about it, but he lost the use of his legs and his brother.
"My brother and I were really close ... He didn't get the second chance that I did," Richard Miller said.
Automakers have known for decades that the lap belt can cause serious injuries and even death in a head-on collision, 10News reported. But it has taken until just recently for automakers to install lap shoulder belts in every seat, called three-point belts.
San Diego attorney Craig McClellan is an expert in seatbelt litigation, and said that he's seen too many crashes where passengers should have survived.
"Lap belts are simply too dangerous. There is just no reason to buy a vehicle without a three-point belt," McClellan
Safety experts have been trying to get three-point belts installed for years, 10News reported. But economics held them back; adding the shoulder strap to lap belts cost $12 a seat.
"A number of manufacturers have determined that it's less expensive to pay settlements," McClellan told 10News.
The Miller family eventually won a $6 million settlement with Ford. The automaker wanted it confidential, but the Millers refused.
"And we told them, not only did we not want to accept an agreement with confidentiality, but we wanted to and intended to speak out," Patricia Miller said.
Although the middle rear seat with a lap belt only is considered dangerous to sit in, that's not necessarily true if you put a child safety seat correctly in the spot, 10News reported.
To make sure your child safety seat has been installed correctly, you can show up at the SDPD's traffic division on the first and third Tuesday of every month for a free child safety seat checkup. But please make sure you bring your own car seat.
And State Farm and the California Highway Patrol will offer free child seat and car safety inspections:
May 18, 10 am - 2 p.m
Rosa Parks Elementary @ 4510 Landis Street
Also, you can contact Buckle Up San Diego (619) 692-0178, or San Diego Safe Kids at (858) 576-1700, or visit the San Diego Safe Communities Web site.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (news - web sites) told 10News that it plans on re-evaluating the lap belt issue.
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