Child Safety Restraint Use Increasing in Auto Trips, Say Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia;Inappropriate Seat Belt Use Declines, but Remains a Problem

05/3/2004

PHILADELPHIA, May 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents are increasingly placing their
children in child safety restraints during automobile trips, according to a national study of children in car crashes. In an important shift, parents are more likely to use child safety seats and belt-positioning booster seats, which are demonstrably safer than adult seat belts for younger children.

Despite these advances, the researchers found that 62 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds are restrained in adult seat belts, putting them at unnecessary risk of injury in a crash.

Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS), a research partnership of The
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm(R), published its results
in this month's issue of Pediatrics. The current study represents an in-depth
analysis of more than 10,000 children under age 9 who were in crashes reported
to State Farm from 1999 to 2002.

For children under age nine, overall child restraint use rose from 49 percent in 1999 to 63 percent at the end of 2002. Among 3-year-olds, optimal child restraint use rocketed from 50 percent in 1999 to 93 percent in 2002. Most of these 3-year-olds moved from seat belts and shield booster seats to child safety seats with a harness, according to Flaura K. Winston, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director of TraumaLink at Children's Hospital and principal investigator for PCPS. She added that 2003 data indicate these favorable trends are continuing.

The shifts in child restraint use, said Dr. Winston, reflect the results of public health education campaigns and new legislation in more than two dozen states as well as the greater availability of child restraints that accommodate larger children. Although many children after age 4 are in adult seat belts, PCPS researchers note that the best protection for children aged 4 to 8 are either child safety seats with a harness or belt-positioning booster seats -- depending on the child's size.

Above age 2, in which child restraint usage was already high, the researchers found increases in child restraint use for each year up to age 8. Among 4-year-olds, child restraint use doubled, from 37 percent in 1999 to 74 percent by 2002. Among 5-year-olds, the rate quadrupled, from 12 percent to 48 percent.

A majority of 6-year-olds remains restrained in seat belts, but the use of
belt-positioning booster seats jumped from 1 percent to 25 percent in just
four years. Only 5 percent of 7- and 8-year-olds were in child restraints by
the end of 2002 -- but this increased from nearly no child restraint use for
these ages at the beginning of the study.

"I am encouraged that parents are more accepting of using child restraints
with harnesses for their older children," states Dr. Winston. "But I hope that parents are considering the maximum weight and height allowed for their child's safety seat and not exceeding the limits of the manufacturer's recommendations. Children should use belt-positioning booster seats once they have outgrown their child safety seat."

For parents, Dr. Winston offers four simple steps to optimize safety for
children riding in motor vehicles: 1) Restrain children on every trip; 2) Use
the rear seat for all children under age 13; 3) Use the appropriate restraint
for a child's age and size; 4) Use the restraints correctly. With each step
taken, PCPS data indicate a significant reduction in risk of injury to
children in crashes.

"Motor vehicle crashes still remain the leading cause of death for children ages 4 to 14," states Dr. Winston. "It's important that measures are taken to get more children into optimal restraints for their age and size on every trip." The challenge for policymakers is to sustain and increase their efforts to ensure more children get buckled up correctly, says Dr. Winston.

Children's Hospital provides a multimedia Web site to address the many questions people have about appropriate restraint and correct installation of child restraint systems. Parents can view brief videos, listen to helpful instructions and browse quick tips at http://www.chop.edu/carseat.

Partners for Child Passenger Safety is a research collaboration among The
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, State Farm and the University of Pennsylvania. PCPS has created a database containing information on more than 300,000 crashes involving more than 453,000 children. It has become the largest source of data on children in motor vehicle crashes. PCPS is based at
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and is funded by State Farm.

Co-authors of the Pediatrics study with Dr. Winston were PCPS researchers Irene G. Chen, M.P.H., Ph.D.; Michael R. Elliott, Ph.D.; Kristy B. Arbogast, Ph.D.; and Dennis R. Durbin, M.D., M.S.C.E.

Founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked today as the best pediatric hospital in the nation by U.S.News & World Report and Child magazines. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service
programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate
for children and adolescents from before birth through age 19. Children's
Hospital operates the largest pediatric healthcare system in the U.S. with
more than 40 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Contact: Suzanne Hill
+1-267-426-6067
hillsu@email.chop.edu