Crash that killed toddler raises concern over car seat rules

Crash that killed toddler raises concern over car seat rules

By Katie Crowther. CREATED Jan 15, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A local family is devastated after a 3-year-old girl was killed in a crash on Monday. 

Emily Kay was killed when the car her father was driving was struck by an SUV.  The crash happened Monday in the intersection of Eastern Avenue and Pebble Road. Emily's father -- 29-year-old Casey Barringer -- was critically injured in the crash.

Las Vegas police say Emily was riding in a booster seat rather than a car seat with a built-in harness. This sheds light on a common misconception that can have tragic consequences.

Emily's family tells Action News the little girl was always buckled up properly in her seat. Local safety advocates say the underlying problem is that many booster seats advertise that they're made for children who weigh as little as 30 pounds. In reality, those seats may not be the safest option for children that small.

"No one really realizes how quickly it can happen," says Ashley Orr, Casey's fiancé. "It happens in an instant, but the damage is permanent. Our little girl didn't make it. People need to realize that even one tiny mistake, can make all the difference."

Jeanne Cosgrove Marsala, the director of Safe Kids at Sunrise Children's Hospital, says most families are led to believe that a booster seat is perfectly safe for a three year old.

"You should never put a child under 40 pounds in a backless booster seat that only uses the adult-sized safety belt as a restraint," she says. "You should keep a child in a car seat with an over-the-head harness for as long as possible."

Marsala acknowledges that a different car seat may not have changed the outcome of this tragic crash. But, she says it could change the outcome of others.

"Four out of five car seats are being installed or used improperly," she says. "That means 90 percent do it wrong. That's why education and awareness is so important."

Safe Kids uses car seat guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here's a link to those guidelines.

Safe Kids offers free car seat checks at Sunrise Children's Hospital every 3rd Wednesday of the month from 5-7 p.m.  They are also available at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, ever 3rd Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.

There are a variety of other organizations and law enforcement agencies that provide the same service.

READ MORE: Family remembers 3-year-old killed in crash