Keeping Panama City's Children Safe: WHALE Identification Program and Car Seat Replacement Rules

Attorney Pittman is a talented and experienced Panama City car accident lawyer with a wealth of legal expertise that can help people injured in accidents recover from those at fault. In addition to legal knowledge, our law firm's team has a wealth of general knowledge about automobile accidents and their aftermath. We believe that one way we can be of service to our community is by sharing our experience. In this post, we share two pieces of safety guidance aimed at protecting child car accident victims.

Program Helps Ensure First Responders Have Vital Information About Child Car Accident Victims

First, a quick step that you can take now to help first responders assist your child in the event of a crash. We have often heard parents report that, in that flash of a moment where they saw an on-coming car or otherwise realized an accident was inevitable, they were only worried about their children. If they worried about themselves at all, it was in relation to the children such as whether they'd be able to comfort the child or share an important piece of medical information with EMTs. We recently learned of a program and a simple step aimed at alleviating this concern, ensuring first responders can serve the youngest victims.

Police and fire departments in Bay County have begun rolling out a new safety program, detailed in a recent WMBB report, called "We Have a Little Emergency" or, more informally, the WHALE program. The program uses stickers on windows and car seats to alert authorities that a child is in the car and provide information such as the child's next of kin (note: we did not obtain a copy of the sticker yet, but assume it includes information on one responsible adult who is unlikely to have been inside) and any major medical issues.

Perhaps the most important piece of data is simply the child's name. Sergeant Marc Tochterman of the Bay County Sheriff's Office told reporters he has been to many accident scenes and knows that having more information on a young child could make a huge difference. He spoke about how hard it was to hold a child after an accident without even knowing the child's name, let alone whether there are any important medical issues relevant to the child's care.

We hope the WHALE program helps protect children, enables first responders to work effectively, and helps give parents a little extra peace of mind.

NHTSA Clarifies Guidance on Replacing Child Safety Seats After a Crash

Second, a review of the current guidance on replacing child safety seats after an accident. We have also had many parents ask about the rules for replacing child car safety seats following an accident. These parents may have heard the prior guidance that seats must be discarded after any accident, no matter how small, but they hadn't previously had the need to know the details of the rule.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") recently updated its recommendations on this issue. Currently, the NHTSA suggests people replace child safety seats after a moderate or severe crash, but says seats do not need to be automatically replaced after a minor crash. For these purposes, a minor crash must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  1. The vehicle could be driven away after the accident.
  2. The door closest to the seat was not damaged.
  3. No one in the vehicle suffered an injury of any severity in the crash.
  4. Air bags did not deploy.
  5. The seat itself is not visibly damaged.

The NHTSA provided this clarification after hearing stories of children who were riding without a safety seat while a replacement was being acquired or who were riding without a safety seat because the old seat was discarded and not replaced. These situations were particularly disconcerting when the original seat was not compromised but had been discarded due to an overly-broad rule. The NHTSA hopes to reduce the financial burden associated with an unnecessary replacement, while ensuring seats are replaced when they may have been compromised. Additional study information supporting the NHTSA decision is available on the above-linked website.

Protecting Child Victims and Other Injured People in Panama City

We hope the information in this post is helpful to parents, both those who have experienced a crash and those who simply want to be prepared should one occur. As we often remind readers of this blog, we believe in prevention first, especially when it involves the safety of a child. Using the WHALE system and understanding car seat safety can help keep your child safe and prevent an accident from escalating into even more of a tragedy.

We will continue to provide safety tips on this blog, and we will also continue to help victims of Panama City vehicle accidents recover crucial money damages in civil court. Call if we can help you or your family.

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