By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Tears in their eyes, voices choked with emotion, they told stories about how the use of seat belts and child safety seats saved their children and grandchildren from serious injury or death.
Peggy Gilbert, a day-care provider from Salem, says car seats saved her 2-year-old granddaughter from injury in a serious car crash.
Karen DuBach of Ashtabula said her 5-year-old son, Dylin, was in a lap seat belt in the back seat of the vehicle when it crashed, and was apparently saved from injury.
But, nine days later he was rushed to a hospital where an obstruction of his bowel was removed. The bowel injury was caused by the seat belt, which had hit him across the abdomen, not across the hips as it would a larger child or adult.
She believes Dylin would not have been injured and had to endure surgery if he had been in a belt positioning booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A booster seat would have elevated Dylin, placing the lap belt across his hips and allowing the shoulder belt to hit his chest, not his neck, making it safer and more comfortable.
"My children now have proper safety seats," DeBach said.
Dan Gerberry, 17, said he was driving on Raccoon Road when he applied his brakes to slow down and lost control on the slippery surface. He went off the side of the road and crashed. The vehicle was totaled, but Dan walked away unharmed.
"I've been used to putting on a seat belt my whole life. I'm glad I did," Dan said.
Dylin and Dan represent the two age groups of young people most at risk for injuries in car crashes: Dan, because too many teens do not use seat belts; and Dylin because parents of children ages 3-8, the ones sized between safety seats and between safety belts, and often use the wrong kind of restraints, said Dr. Robert Felter, medical director of Tod Children's Hospital, said.
Dr. Felter and the others spoke Monday at an educational event at Northside Medical Center for resident pediatric physicians and other professionals, co-sponsored by the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes program and Tod Children's Hospital.
Not all the stories are happy like the ones heard today, Dr. Felter said.
Statistics show that if children are wearing seat and shoulder belts not appropriate for their size and age, they risk internal and neck injuries in a crash. Particularly vulnerable are those in the 3-8 age group, which outgrow baby seats and are too small for adult seat belts, he said.
"We need to change laws and change people's minds and attitudes about using the correct recommended restraints by age and size," Dr. Felter said.