The obesity epidemic that has seriously compromised the health of a generation of U.S. children has now created a safety hazard as well.
In addition to all types of long-term medical problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and orthopedic injuries, hundreds of thousands of young children (under 7) are now simply too big to fit properly into their Ã¢â‚¬Å“normalÃ¢â‚¬Â sized car safety seats.
The excessive weight poses a number of problems from not being able to fit comfortably in the seats to being at a heightened risk of serious injury in the event of an accident.
A new study published in the journal PediatricsÃ¢â‚¬Â has found that: “As the number of obese children in the United States increases, it is essential to develop child safety seats that can protect children of all sizes and shapes.”
According to the study, over 282,000 overweight children (under age 7) cannot fit into standard child safety or booster seats currently on the market. As a result, these children are not being properly restrained and the seats themselves are subject to failure under the stresses exerted in serious automobile accidents.
Only four models of child safety seats are designed to protect overweight children in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, they all cost at least $240. This creates a dilemma since childhood obesity often occurs in low-income families that cannot afford such high-priced products.
Since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., the importance of proper safety seats and booster seats cannot be overemphasized. According to the report, car safety seats have been found to reduce a toddlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s risk of fatal injury by over 50%.
Children too small for booster seats, may still be much too heavy for safety seats (40 pound maximum). In addition, many children too large for booster seats are still too small to use adult seat or shoulder belts.
The study clearly demonstrates the need for redesigned child safety (and booster) seats that take into consideration the fact that children are both bigger and heavier than ever before. Cost must also be addressed so that safe seats can be afforded by every family with young children.