Child safety gets a boost from car seats

Increased child restraint use has helped reduce death and injury rate

Published: March 1, 2012, 3:00 AM
Updated: June 17, 2015, 4:56 PM

It is a well-known fact that children are better protected in vehicular crashes when seated in an age-appropriate child restraint. A decade-long study, conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and supported by the Association for International Automobile Manufacturers, reveals child restraint use has increased dramatically, contributing to a lower death and injury rate for young people.

The report, shows that over an eight year period from 1999 to 2007 child restraint use increased from 51 percent to 80 percent among children younger than 9. An even more dramatic increase was noted for children in the 4-8 age group where the use of appropriate restraints quadrupled from 15 percent to more than 63 percent.

According to Kristy Arbogast, Ph.D., director of engineering at CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention, where the long-term study was conducted, "Over the past decade, we have seen booster seat use among 4- and 5-year-olds increase to from 30 percent to 88 percent. And among 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds, booster use increased from just 2 percent in 1999 to 43 percent in 2007."

She points out that in the last decades not only are the number of children using restraints on the increase, there are big changes in the type of restraint being used.

"More 4- and 5-year-olds are riding in booster seats now, rather than in car seats with built-in harnesses, with slightly more of them in high-back booster seats than backless," Ms Arbogast says. "But among the 6- through 8-year-olds, backless booster seats are far more prevalent than high back booster seats."

She points out that legislation, promotion and education have all played a role in this welcome increase in the use of proven age-related safety devices for young vehicle occupants.

The study shows the use of a booster seat by 4-8 year-olds cuts the risk of injury in a crash by an astounding 59% by elevating their bodies to where the belts fit properly and can do their intended job.

"More parents than ever now realize that kids need the help of a booster seat to make sure the belt fits properly across the bony parts of their lap and shoulder, rather than across the soft belly or the neck, which are more prone to injury," she says. "Typically the adult seat belt begins to fit properly for children at about 4'9" tall, usually around age 8."

Other findings from the report:

The majority (60%) of crashes involving children take place within 10 minutes of the home and 84 percent within 20 minutes

Then risk of injury in a crash increases with the age of the child, culminating with 13-15 year olds, who are at greatest risk.

The risk of injury is closely aligned with the age of the driver. Children are at much greater risk with a driver under the age of 20 – four times more likely to be injured than if they were in a car driven by an older driver

Head injuries are the most common injury for children of all ages,

There is still room for improvement in all areas of child passenger safety, but one area in particular is of concern – despite knowledge and widespread education that children younger than 13 be seated in the rear for maximum protection, more than one-third of them are riding in the front seat.

The report is part of the 2008 Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) Fact and Trend Report, on "the milestones reached over a decade of research tracking children involved in real-world motor vehicle crashes". It results from studying data from the world’s largest study of children involved in motor vehicle crashes provided by State Farm Insurance Companies in the United States and Canada.