car crash that claimed the life of a young Caldwell girl this
week underscores the importance of properly restraining children
seats appropriate for their size. It also affirms the warning
that young children should not ride in the front seat of vehicles
equipped with passenger-side airbags.
The child was thrown into the dashboard of a 1995 Ford Windstar
and then hurled back when the airbag deployed, according to
investigating state police officer Charles Ketchum.
The Idaho Press Tribune (Nampa) reported Wednesday that Donald
E. Jones of Caldwell was northbound when his van and an eastbound
vehicle driven by Sonia Guerrero, also of Caldwell, collided
at an uncontrolled intersection. Ketchum estimates that both
vehicles were traveling slower than 25 miles per hour.
Jones sustained a broken hand in the crash. He was not wearing
a seat belt at the time of the accident. Guerrero received
minor injuries and was treated at a hospital before being
released. The victim's 6-year-old sister, who was wearing
a seat belt in the back seat of the van, sustained no injuries.
Investigating officers reported that a child safety seat
was placed in the van but the 3-year-old girl was not in it.
I cannot help but believe it would have made all the
difference, Ketchum said.
By most standards, the incident was minor, with little damage
to the vehicles. The life-threatening injuries, however, resulted
from the rapid deployment of the airbag and the violent impact
it created for the 3-year-old victim.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
explicitly warns against allowing young children riding in
the front seat, and strongly recommends lap/shoulder belts
in properly designed child seats.
Most new cars have air bags for front-seat passengers.
When used with lap/shoulder belts, air bags work very well
to protect older children and adults who ride facing the front
of the car, NHTSA said.
Air bags do not work with rear-facing child seats (those
used with infants). Airbags could seriously injure or even
kill an unbuckled child or adult who is sitting too close
to the air bag or who is thrown toward the dash during emergency
braking. In a crash, the air bag inflates very quickly. It
could hit anything close to the dashboard with enough force
to cause severe injuries or even death.