For Your Child

Many Kids in Cars Still Not Restrained Properly

A new study found that despite AAP guidelines on car safety, few youngsters are placed in the proper safety seats after age 1, and that many over age 6 sit in the front passenger seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued car seat guidelines in 2011 that said children should be in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years old. At that point, they should be switched to a forward-facing seat and five-point harness until they have reached the maximum height and weight requirement set by the seat's manufacturer.

Children should then ride in a booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall and an adult seat belt fits them properly. Children should not ride in the front passenger seat until they are at least 13 years old.

Photo of a young child buckling car seat strap

Few follow guidelines

Yet researchers looking at car seat compliance found discouraging data.

"The most important finding from this study is that, while age and racial disparities exist, overall few children are using the restraints recommended for their age group," says study co-author Michelle Macy, M.D., at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dr. Macy and her colleagues look at data on nearly 21,500 children from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Survey on the Use of Booster Seats.

Observing drivers

The information was gathered by watching drivers with child passengers as they drove into gas stations, fast-food restaurants, recreation centers, and child care facilities. They recorded the type of restraints being used by the children, where the children sat, and if the children were boys or girls. They also noted the type of restraints used by the adults and the type of car they were driving.

The researchers also interviewed the drivers to learn their age, as well as the ages of all the children riding in the car. The drivers also gave the race and ethnicity of the child passengers.

They found that as children got older, they were less likely to be restrained in cars and follow recommended car safety guidelines.

Hispanic and black children were even less likely to use age-appropriate restraints than white children.

Dr. Macy says the study results point to a need for more public education programs on child safety seats aimed at specific cultural groups.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Pediatrics - Car Seat Checkup

American Journal of Preventive Medicine - Child Passenger Safety Practices in the U.S.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Car Seats and Booster Basics

October 2012

Types of Car Seats

Here's a rundown on different types of car seats:

  • Rear-facing infant seats. These are for children up to age 2, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seat's manufacturer, usually 22 to 35 pounds. Rear-facing seats are critical for infants to make sure they have proper head and neck support.

  • Convertible safety seats. These face either backward or forward and are for toddlers between ages 2 and 4, and for those who weigh between 30 and 40 pounds and who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car safety seat.

  • Booster seats. These are used as a transition to seat belts by older children who have outgrown their convertible seats but aren't tall enough to use the belts. They are for children usually between 8 and 12 years old who are shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches.

  • Combination child seat/booster seats (three-in-one). These can be used with an internal harness until your child weighs 40 to 50 pounds and then made into a belt-positioning booster seat by removing the internal harness.

  • Lap and shoulder belts. Children ages 8 and older or who weigh more than 80 pounds and are about 4 feet, 9 inches tall should use lap and shoulder belts. The lap belt should stay low and snug across the hips without riding up over the stomach, and the shoulder belt shouldn't cross at the neck.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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