The consumer group ‘Safewise’ stated recently that Montana has the worst child car crash fatality rate in the United States.

KGVO reached out to spokesperson Rebecca Edwards for details on their findings.

“Interestingly, Montana's had an issue for a while, sadly, as far as car crash fatalities go, especially for children, but we evaluated data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration,” said Edwards. “To give it an apples to apples comparison, we figured out how many child car crash fatalities were happening per 100,000 children in every state.”

Edwards provided more specifics about Montana from the Safewise research.

“We also looked at things like state laws and different recommendations for the best safety practices for children up to 13 years old,” she said. “The child car crash fatality rate in Montana is 4.7 deaths per 100,000 people, but the national average is 1.7. That's three more fatalities per 100,000 in Montana than you have across the average nationwide.”

Edwards had no specific information about why Montana has done so poorly in keeping children safe while in vehicles, but did have advice on proper use of child safety seats.

“You should check to make sure the car seat is installed properly, especially if it's a rear facing infant car seat,” she said. “The risk you have in that is if it's leaning at the wrong angle, without even a crash, the baby's head could lean forward and you could block their airway. Most of them (infant car seats) have a tiny little ball that rolls back and forth so you can see whether you're at the right level or not.”

Edwards also emphasized the ‘pinch test’ in car seats.

“Make sure that they’re buckled in when you buckle up your kids,” she said. “There's something called the ‘pinch test’. You want to rub your fingers along the safety strap. It's like the seat belt strap it's made out of slick material. It's kind of like you know how we used to pinch an inch on our belly to see if we need to go on a diet. This is like pinching an inch on that strap and if you get any of the material between your fingers, it is not tight enough.”

According to the Safewise website:

‘A properly installed child safety seat can reduce fatal injuries by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers in standard passenger cars.  It’s estimated that at least 11,606 children under the age of four have been saved by car seats between 1975 and 2017. But not everyone buckles in their kids for every trip. In 2018, 35% of all children under the age of 15 who died in car accidents were unrestrained. Child car seat laws exist to encourage people to use the correct restraint systems for the longest possible time, but the specifications vary from state to state.’

KGVO also reached out to Kira Huck, Executive Director of the Foundation for Community Health and also serves as the state office director for Safe Kids Montana.

Huck added more context to the Safewise research.

“Safewise has talked a lot about infants and younger children and car seats and car seat safety, and that information is, of course incredibly important,” said Huck. “What's also really important to point out is that a good number of fatalities among children in Montana happen in older children and teens. And so while it is really important to make sure that your child's car seat is installed correctly and being used properly, it's also important to make sure that those older children are restrained as well and that teens are wearing their seat belts.”

Huck also said that parents must model good safety habits.

“What's also important to consider is that parents are modeling that same safe behavior and wearing their seat belt as well,” she said. “Research shows that children whose parents wear their seat belt are more likely to wear that as the belt as well.”


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