It’s accepted in safety circles that booster seat-aged children are twice as likely to suffer serious injury or death in a car crash than younger children. However, a new study shows these children may be less likely to have car seats inspected for proper use. Less than a quarter of car seat and booster checks analyzed in the new University of Michigan Health System study were conducted in children ages 4 and older at car seat inspection stations in Michigan. Just one in 10 (11 percent) of inspections covered booster seat-age children ages 4-7, while half were for rear-facing car seats.
The findings, which appear in this September’s issue of The Journal of Trauma, also show that roughly a third of booster seat-age children who did have seats checked left an inspection in a safer restraint than when they arrived. Senior author Michelle L. Macy, M.D., M.S. of the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit (CHEAR):
Booster seats seem less technical and complicated than installing an infant seat, which may lead parents and families to worry less about using them incorrectly. We know that older kids are at particular risk of injury from a car crash. Our study suggests it may be beneficial for certified child passenger safety technicians to focus more on providing education and guidance on prolonged use of booster seats.
Unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death and disability for children older than 1 in the U.S. Children ages 4-12 are more likely to suffer significant abdominal injuries as a result of switching from booster seats to seatbelts too soon. These injuries, known as “seat belt syndrome”, include intra-abdominal, spinal cord, and facial injuries. Booster seats have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent in children aged 4-8 when compared with seat belt use alone but there are reportedly lower rates of proper restraint use among older kids.
Authors point to such factors as lack of knowledge about the safety benefits of booster seats and risk to child passengers. The authors say that Child passenger safety initiatives also generally focus most on car seat inspections for infants and toddlers. The study analyzed data from 4,531 car seat inspections (1,316 that occurred through Safe Kids Huron Valley and 3,215 through Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids). Children older than 4 were more likely to have a sibling who underwent a car seat inspection – many may have even been brought along with no intention from the parent of having the older child’s seat evaluated. Lead author Amber Kroeker was with CHEAR at the time of the study. She is now an injury prevention program coordinator at Randall Children’s Hospital – Legacy Emanuel in Portland, Ore. Ms. Kroeker had this to say:
Study after study shows that caregivers often need support and direction when choosing and installing child restraints and that they are often using them incorrectly, which puts child passengers at unnecessary risk of harm. This gap can be addressed in car seat inspections, which are free and offered in most communities, but our findings indicate low use of this service by parents of older children.
In a recent survey of 1000 parents by Safe Kids Worldwide, seven out of 10 parents did not know that optimal vehicle belt fit may not be obtained until a child reaches a height of 57 inches, and nine out of 10 parents prematurely transition their child from a booster seat to a vehicle seat belt. Ms. Kroeker had this to say:
Injury risk in motor vehicle accidents has been dramatically reduced for infants and toddlers because of an increased focus on proper restraints. We want to see the same outcomes for older children.
Our firm has been very active in trying to help educate folks, and especially parents of small children, about the proper use of seat belts. If you need more information our firm’s activities in this area contact Helen Taylor at 800-898-2034 or by email at Helen.Taylor@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Claims Journal
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