On Saturday, July 24, 2010, tragedy struck in East Feliciana Parish as a 9-year-old girl died in a car accident. Reports state that the young girl, Tobiya Kato, was killed when the car driven by her mother, Jamet Kato, veered off the road and flipped before coming to a rest on its roof in a wooded area. This tragic event serves as a reminder of the importance of all passengers wearing seatbelts, especially young children seated in the back of a vehicle.
According to reports, the young girl, whom was seated in the back seat, was thrown from the vehicle during the accident due to not wearing her seatbelt. Police noted that in addition to the 9-year old girl, three other children, ages 6, 5, and 2, were also in the back of the vehicle, not wearing seatbelts, when the accident occurred. However, Jamet Kato, along with a 12-year-old sitting in the front seat, were both wearing their seatbelts at the time and only suffered minor to moderate injuries in the crash.
The sheer number of deaths that could be prevented by properly buckling up in a vehicle are staggering. According to NHTSA’s study, in 2008 there were 25,351 accidents involving the death of passengers in the United States. Of those, 12,865, or 50.7%, passengers were not utilizing safety restraint devices, such as a seat belt or car seat for younger children. The statistics for Louisiana residents are similarly shocking. Of the 669 passenger deaths in 2008, 59.2%, or roughly 400 passengers, died in accidents in which they were not buckled.
Accidents like this serve as a reminder for all individuals to wear seat belts when riding in a car, whether in the front or back seat. Restraint devices, such as a seat belt or car seat for younger and smaller children, serve to protect the individual in the event of an accident. Beyond this, though, is the fact that there is a very real legal duty on the part of a parent, guardian, babysitter, etc., to make sure that minors are properly restrained in a vehicle. This legal duty can lead to a significant share of liability in the event of an accident like the one mentioned above. Failing to make sure that a child is properly buckled into a vehicle can lead to both criminal and civil court consequences that could have been avoided with a couple seconds of effort.
When a parent or babysitter fails to remind children, whether in the back or front seats, to buckle in, they may be breaching a duty owed to protect their young passengers due to negligence. This means that the driver must not only remind children to buckle in, but also ensure that children are actually buckled in, before driving. The state laws around the country may vary slightly, but the consensus remains that it is the adult driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the young passengers. In addition, criminal charges may be brought against adult drivers that endanger the welfare of young children unable to know the dangers of failing to buckle in. The importance of wearing a seatbelt is clear: whether you are a parent, relative, or babysitter, always ensure that children are buckled before leaving the driveway. The obvious physical harm from not doing so is substantial and the legal consequences afterwards are clear and considerable.
If your child is injured in an accident such as this, an attorney that specializes in these areas can help you determine any remedies that you might have.