Local safety technician cites studies showing lowered injury risk for kids under 13 kept in the back seat

  • Child Passenger Safety Technician Joanna Singh of Northfield sets up a car seat beside her son, Zeke Singh, 9, in her van on Monday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Child Passenger Safety Technician Joanna Singh of Northfield buckles her daughter Hazel Singh, 4, into a car seat beside her son Zeke Singh, 9, on Monday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Zeke Singh, 9, of Northfield buckles himself into his booster seat in the van of his mother Joanna Singh, a child passenger safety technician on Monday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/2/2017 8:01:07 PM

NORTHFIELD — Child Passenger Safety Technician and Northfield resident Joanna Singh believes the state should pass legislation to increase driving safety restrictions for children and preteens.

Under a recently proposed bill (redrafted from previous legislation) that’s currently moving through the state senate, children younger than 13 years old wouldn’t be allowed to ride in the front seat in Massachusetts.

The law also “says that a child under the age of 13 cannot sit in the front seat unless the vehicle lacks a back seat or ‘the rear passenger seat of the motor vehicle is occupied by other passengers under the age of 13,” notes a report from the State House News Service.

Citing a few different studies, Singh said Monday that “children under 13 fare best in the back seat.” Around that age, she continued, “development of the sternum and the pelvis is immature. Specifically, the sternum is millimeters thinner than it is in an adult, and the hips are lower and less prominent.”

Singh also sits on the board of directors for the child passenger safety nonprofit, Car Seats for the Littles Inc.

“Approximately 75 percent of crashes are frontal impacts,” Singh continued. “This means, in most crashes, the front seats are nearest the point of physical impact. The primary method of occupant protection for any occupant is energy management. For smaller, younger occupants, you want to redirect as much of the crash energy as possible before it hits the occupant. The farther away, the better.”

A 2013 publication by American Academy of Pediatrics supports Singh’s thoughts, recommending that “children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.”

Another document, produced by the state Department of Early Education and Care, recommends that “all children under 12 should not ride in the front seat if there is an airbag.”

“The closer the occupant is to the crash, the more the body itself has to manage that energy flow. For a child with a less prominent pelvis, and a less prominent sternum, the closer that impact point is, the more energy gets transferred directly to the organs, brain and spine of the child, and the greater the risk of serious injury or even death,” Singh said.

Currently, the state requires children under 8 years old to be in a car seat; however, Singh said, “there are no other stipulations about what kind of restraint, what direction it faces, minimum age for a booster instead of a car seat, etc.”

“I’ve been working in this field for 10 years this year,” she said, citing more research to support her thoughts. “I have never, ever met an 8-year-old tall and large enough to physically ride safely in a seatbelt without a booster.”

Also of interest, Singh highlighted improvements in modern vehicle’s safety devices, such as increased airbag protection and early-warning seatbelt locks, which provide protection to adults, but hazards to children.

“These are all features that do a great job protecting adults, but not children,” Singh said, noting that “children are best protected by, one, a properly fitted, properly installed or used federally approved restraint and two, by being as far as possible from the point of most likely impact.”

In a perfect world, Singh said she’d like to see increased safety standards for children across the board, including a law requiring that all children “under 13 must be in the back seat, unless all three-point lap shoulder belts are all ready occupied by younger children.”

The research articles Singh referred to include studies from Car Seats For The Littles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

For the state bill to move to the governor’s desk — the next step in the process — it’ll have to be approved by both the House and the Senate by today, which marks the end of the current legislative session.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo


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