August 2010 Archives

August 17, 2010

Drop-Side Crib Ban Looming, Government Recommends New Crib Safety Standards

Drop-side cribs have been a safety issue for several years. Following the largest recall of drop-side cribs in the United States - 2.1 million cribs manufactured by Stork Craft - there was another recall this summer that included over 2 million drop-side cribs from seven different manufacturers. Over the last five years, more than nine million cribs have been recalled. Many of these recalls are the result of design defects which have led to serious, and sometimes fatal, results. Drop-side cribs have caused 32 deaths and hundreds of injuries to children since 2000.

Last month the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously to ban drop-side cribs and also recommended new crib safety standards. When the new standards are implemented, the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs will be forbidden, and hotels and daycares will be prohibited from using them. With child safety being the main concern, new standards also call for better construction and improved mattress support. These standards will be published by the end of the year, and after a final vote, are expected to be implemented next year.

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August 12, 2010

Booster Seats Can Help Save Lives...So Why Doesn't Florida Require Them?

We often hear about the importance of car seats to help prevent injuries to children and to keep them safe while traveling in automobiles. However, we don't often hear about the importance of booster seats. When children reach the age of 4 in the state of Florida, parents are no longer required to use car seats, and have the option of using a seat belt, a separate carrier, or a booster seat as a means to keep their children safe. Why are booster seats merely an option when studies show that booster seats are safer than just using seat belts? Earlier this year, a bill that would require the use of booster seats stalled in the Florida Legislature. Opponents of the bill favored education and awareness on booster seats over making it a law. Currently, 47 states in the country require the use of booster seats. The only states without this requirement are South Dakota, Arizona, and Florida.

When children are between the ages of 4 and 8, they are in that gray area where they have outgrown their car seats, but are too small to use a seatbelt. Because seatbelts were designed for larger frames, they do not fit a child properly and can cause injuries known as "seatbelt syndrome" if an auto accident occurs. For example, the lap belt is made to sit on the pelvis of an adult, but on a child, it sits on the abdomen, increasing the risk of abdominal and spinal cord injuries. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, children in this age group who use booster seats are 59 percent less likely to sustain injuries than children who only use seatbelts. Studies from other publications also point to the dangers in only using seat belts for children, as the likelihood of head injuries increases by 4 to 5 times, and abdominal injuries increase by 3 times. It is recommended that children start using seatbelts when they are between 8 and 12 years old and are at least 4'9".

Auto accidents are the number one cause of death for children between 2 and 14 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the likelihood of death in an auto accident decreases by 28 percent for children who are properly restrained. A report by Channel 4 in Jacksonville earlier this year revealed that an alarming 83% of children ages 4 to 8 are restrained using seat belts, not booster seats. It is important for parents and caretakers to learn about the use of booster seats as a way to help prevent injuries to children while riding in motor vehicles. Safe Kids USA, a non-profit organization that provides information on preventing childhood injuries, offers tips on booster seat and seat belt usage.

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August 6, 2010

Amusement Park Injuries and Florida Theme Park Lawsuits

Millions of people visit amusement parks each year in the United States. Disney is the first name that comes to mind, but there hundreds of parks in the country that draw large numbers of people as well. According to the Themed Entertainment Association, 119.1 million people visited Disney attractions in 2009. With such a large number of people visiting amusement and theme parks each year, unfortunately, injuries and deaths occur, and some stories make national headlines. Just recently, on July 30th, a 12-year-old girl from Parkland, Florida, was critically injured at a Wisconsin amusement park when the safety net in Terminal Velocity, a free fall ride, was not used properly, causing her to fall 100 feet. The girl's father says it is likely his daughter will have some paralysis, and he has filed a lawsuit against the amusement park. Police say the fall was due to operator error. The park, Extreme World, which closed down for two days following the accident, is now open again.

According to Saferparks.org's federal data, 8,800 injuries were linked to amusement rides in 2006. Last spring, the Orlando Sentinel published a list of the top five theme park rides in Central Florida with the most lawsuits in a five-year span (from 2004 to 2008):

  1. Universal Orlando's Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
  2. Epcot's Mission: Space
  3. Wet 'n' Wild's The Black Hole
  4. Islands of Adventure's Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rate Barges
  5. Hollywood Studios' Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Florida Theme Park Lawsuits: Slip and Falls Top List

The Sentinel also published a report on personal injury lawsuits filed against Central Florida theme parks from 2004 through 2008. At the top of the list are trip or slip and fall lawsuits, which make up almost half - 46 percent - of the lawsuits filed. According to the report, it is rare that a lawsuit goes to trial; most cases are settled out of court, and the majority of settlements are kept secret. Only seven cases during this time period were tried in court.

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