Only One in 100 Children Between 6 and 8 Years Old are Properly Restrained In Pennsylvania Autos, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Study Shows

07/5/2001

PHILADELPHIA, July 5 /PRNewswire/ -- In response to the introduction of the Child Passenger Protection Act of 2001, which calls for improved state laws to protect the nation's most vulnerable passengers, the Partners for Child Passenger Safety Study (PCPS) has released data from its study that is specific to child passengers in Pennsylvania. PCPS data show that less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania children enrolled in the study, who are between 6 and 8 years old, are appropriately restrained according to the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

PCPS data show that children restrained in seat belts rather than a car seat or booster seat are 3.5 times more likely to suffer a serious injury. In the overall study, which analyzes State Farm crash data, more than 90 percent of 4-to-8-year-old children who are seriously injured are not restrained in a booster seat.

The study, being conducted at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, highlights interesting child passenger restraint patterns as well as patterns of injuries sustained by Pennsylvania children.

"Of concern to me as a pediatrician, is the direct correlation between inappropriate restraint and injuries sustained by children," states Flaura Winston, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the study. "Parents who graduate their children prematurely to adult seats belts need to realize that seat belts are designed to protect an average-sized adult -- not a child's small body. Most parents in Pennsylvania are missing the vital booster seat step."

Once a child's car seat is completely outgrown, based on manufacturer's recommendation, the child should graduate to a belt-positioning booster seat. The booster seat raises the child so that the adult lap/shoulder belt fits the child properly. The child should remain in the booster seat until she is big enough so that the adult seat belt fits her properly without the booster seat, usually around 4'9" and 80 pounds.

In Pennsylvania, 88 percent of 4-to-8-years-olds are restrained in an adult seat belt rather than the recommended belt-positioning booster seat, according to the PCPS study.

Additional statistics from PCPS provide insight into other age groups; PCPS determined that 23 percent of infants in Pennsylvania are incorrectly turned forward-facing in their car seats before age 1 year. Infants should remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least 1 year AND 20 pounds, according to AAP and NHTSA.

AAP and NHTSA recommend that children, 12 years and under, should ride in the rear seat of the vehicle. PCPS data show that 14 percent of 4-to-8-year- olds and 42 percent of 9-to-12-year-olds in Pennsylvania are riding inappropriately in the front seat. Overall, 16 percent of Pennsylvania's children age 12 years and under are riding in the front seat of vehicles.

The PCPS study also determined injuries by body region to children in car crashes. In Pennsylvania, 29 percent of children in serious crashes sustained an injury. Seventy-two percent of the serious injuries to Pennsylvania children were to the head or face. Seventeen percent of serious injuries were extremity injuries, 8 percent were abdominal injuries associated with "seat belt syndrome," and 3 percent were other injuries.

PCPS is the first comprehensive research study in the United States of how and why children are killed in car crashes. It is a collaboration of researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Research is currently being conducted in: Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Claims information collected, with privacy safeguards, from State Farm policy holders in these states represent more than 250,000 State Farm insured children per year who are under the age of 16 and involved in crashes in 1990 model year or newer vehicles. Research began in 1997 and the project remains the largest single research study devoted exclusively to pediatric motor vehicle injury.

People interested in learning more about the Partners for Child Passenger Safety can log onto traumalink.chop.edu. A fact sheet about PCPS findings for the State of Pennsylvania is available as a downloadable pdf file.

CONTACT: Suzanne Hill of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 215-590-1417, or hillsu@email.chop.edu.