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Safety Seats? It Depends on How You Use Them
Recent studies in Norway and the U.S. have found big problems with child safety during car trips. The problems stem from lack of use or incorrect use of children's car seats. Parents may think that protecting their children is as simple as placing a child in a car seat. But there's more to it than that. When they are used improperly, car seats offer dangers of their own.
No one wants a false sense of security about his or her child's safety. A few precautions can give you the real thing.
Norway: Over a Third of All Children Incorrectly Restrained
The Norwegian study found that 37% of all children under the age of 16 were incorrectly restrained in the car. From April to August 2011, researchers stopped cars along high-speed roads in southeast Norway during the weekend and noted how the children in them were secured.
Of the 1,260 children under the age of 16 observed during the study, 37% were incorrectly restrained, and another 22% were restrained in a way that severe or fatal injury would likely have occurred during a crash on the high-speed road. The errors were most common for children aged 4-7, and booster cushions were the safety equipment most likely to be used incorrectly--more than half the children who sat on them were incorrectly restrained.
The most common mistakes were misplaced or twisted belts, loose straps, belt placed under the arm instead of over the shoulder and children under four and a half feet sitting in a seat without side support.
The aim of the study was to find out what types of mistakes parents were making while restraining children in the car. The researchers certainly found plenty of them. Now they can work on the hard part, teaching parents how to avoid making these mistakes.
An earlier aspect of the study, known as the Child in the Car study, had looked at fatalities in car accidents in SE Norway from 2007-2009 and found that 52% of the children killed in these accidents were not properly restrained. More results from the Child in the Car study will be published in spring 2013.
The study measuring incorrect restraint was published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
United States: Booster Seats Save Lives
Car seats aren't only an issue in Norway, and small children are not the only ones at risk. Older children who have outgrown their infant seats still need to be properly secured. And seatbelts designed for adults don't do the trick.
U.S. researchers recently presented a study suggesting that mandating the use booster seats until age eight would save children's lives.
Booster seats are recommended for children until they are big enough to properly use a seat belt. They raise the child up so the seat belt will sit firmly across the collar bone and chest, with the lap portion fitted to the hips. If the seat belt is not across the collar bone and the hips, it can ride up across the neck and the stomach and cause internal injuries during a collision.
While many states do have booster seat laws, they vary widely in the ages at which children must use the seats.
The researchers compared fatality and incapacitating injury rates from car accidents in states before and after they had passed booster seat laws, between January 1999 and December 2009.
Fatal and incapacitating injuries for 4-6-year-olds were 20% lower in states with booster seat laws compared to states without the laws. The effect was even stronger for 7-8-year-olds, with a 33% decrease for these injuries. The study also found that the risk of death or incapacitation was 70% higher for 7-8-year-olds who were only wearing a lap/shoulder belt, compared to those who were in a booster seat.
Taken together, this suggests that laws mandating booster seat use until age eight would save lives and decrease serious injuries.
The study results were presented October 22 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2012 National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that booster seats be used until a child reaches 4 feet 9 inches tall. This usually occurs sometime between the ages of 8-12.
October 31, 2012