Child-Safety Seat Use Drops As Kids Age

By Jennifer Geiger  on September 17, 2012

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It's National Child Passenger Safety Week, a week that reminds us to renew our focus on car safety for our kids. It's a time to take a closer look at what's working and what needs work. According to an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, there's a lot of room for improvement.

The three-year study used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on the child-safety-seat practices of 21,476 children younger than 13. It found some alarming trends. One particularly troubling development is that as kids get older, they're less likely to be secured in child-safety seats.

  • According to the study, few children remain rear-facing after age 1, despite an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children stay rear-facing until age 2 or when they reach the weight and height limit of the seat in that position.
  • The safest place for kids 12 and younger is the backseat, but the study found that many kids are sitting in the front seat: one in seven of kids aged 6 to 7 years old, a quarter of those aged 8 to 10 and more than a third of those aged 11 to 12 are sitting up front.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends kids remain in a booster until they're at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. Boosters ensure proper and safe seat belt placement, but the study found that after age 7, less than 2% of kids use one.

Not only are some adults not following the safety recommendations for their kids, but they’re setting a bad example. The study found that children with an unrestrained driver were 23 times more likely to be unrestrained themselves.

How do we reverse these trends? The study's authors have a few ideas.

"Tailored child passenger safety programs are needed to address the motivations of parents from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and for drivers who do not use seat belts themselves … One novel approach to increasing child passenger restraint use may be to mandate child passenger safety education for parents who are ticketed for driving unrestrained," it suggested.

Not sure if your child is in the right seat? NHTSA has a new website that makes it easier to find the right car seat. Not sure the child-safety seat is installed correctly? Look up a car seat check location here.

Related
Parents Still Aren't Getting Car Seats Right
NHTSA Recommends Kids Stay in Car Seats, Boosters Longer
Cars.com's Car Seat Checks


Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer


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