Officials: Children safer in correct car seats

By Anna Bolton - [email protected]

XENIA — Following a fatal crash in Sugarcreek Township involving young children, local officials are reminding residents about the importance of properly restraining children in vehicles.

A single-car crash on Wilmington-Dayton Road Feb. 3 left a 23-year-old woman and a 5-year-old child dead, and a man and another young child seriously injured.

The woman was Menley Downs of Waynesville, our partners at WDTN reported. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol Xenia Post Commander Lt. Matt Schmenk, the driver, who is the father of the children, was in critical condition but stable shortly after the crash; the 6-year-old child is in critical condition.

Troopers indicated the car was headed north on the road when it veered left and crashed into a rock culvert. According to Schmenk, the car went off the road for an unknown reason, and the driver stated he was looking at his GPS. Schmenk said he’s waiting on the toxicology report to determine if the driver was impaired. He said a crash reconstructionist determined the vehicle was traveling around 55-60 mph, not braking as it crashed.

According to Schmenk, the woman in the front passenger seat was not wearing a seatbelt, but everyone else in the car was belted. He said the children were not in booster seats.

Ohio law requires children from birth to age 4 and 40 pounds to sit in a car seat. Once they are out of a car seat, children ages 4-8 or children as tall as 4 feet 9 inches, whichever comes first, must sit in a booster seat. Children ages 8-15 who are not in booster seats must use adult seat belts at all times; children under 13 must ride in the backseat. Every driver and front seat passenger must wear a seat belt.

“Basically, the only thing you have to protect yourself in the event of a tragic crash is a safety belt,” Schmenk said. “With a small child, their bodies ares still growing — and that’s why it’s required for them to be in booster seats. It’s added protection in the event they’re involved in a traffic crash.”

According to Greene County Public Health officials, every hour, nearly 150 children ages 0-19 are treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes. More children ages 5-19 die from crash-related injuries than from any other type of injury, they said.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows older children are less likely to want to buckle up. Over the past five years, 1,552 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car, SUV and van crashes. Of those who died, almost half were unbelted.

Some younger children are prematurely placed in seat belts.

“Too often, parents move their children to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if they are buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat,” said Jillian Drew, Greene County Safe Communities Coalition coordinator at GCPH.

In 2015, approximately 25.8 percent of children between the ages of four and seven, who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6 percent were unbuckled altogether, GCPH officials said.

When it comes to car seats, NHTSA reports two out of three are misused. When properly installed, car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, they said.

“Using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate, every trip, every time is the best way to keep children safe,” Drew said.

NHTSA recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible, up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing-only “infant” car seat, he/she should travel in a rear-facing “convertible” or all-in-one car seat. Once a child outgrows the rear-facing size limits, the child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness (always use the tether). After outgrowing the forward-facing car seat with harness, children should be placed in booster seats until they’re the right size to use seat belts safely.

Drew advises residents to get their car seat installation checked by a law enforcement officer or certified car seat technician. A certified car seat technician herself, she can be contacted at 937-374-5683 or [email protected] Parents and caregivers can also locate a certified car seat technician on the Safe Seats 4 Kids website at

Participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program or Medicaid-eligible persons qualify for Goodwill EasterSeals Miami Valley’s Car Seat Safety Program, which includes an instruction seminar and car seat. For more information on this program, call 937-529-6301.

By Anna Bolton

[email protected]