This month, Safe Kids released an interesting report based on a recent survey of more than 1,000 parents and caregivers with children 10 years and younger. Nearly one in four respondents stated that they have driven without their child in a car seat or booster seat. Even more concerning was that some parents are comfortable with keeping their children inappropriately restrained under certain conditions, including: during shorter trips, when driving at night, if in a rush, or if trying to ‘reward’ the child. This ‘permissive sub-optimal restraint’ was seen more frequently in certain subgroups of parents including those who were younger or with higher education and household income.
We have learned from the Partners for Child Passenger Safety Study (representing 600,000 children under age 16 in crashes in 1998-2008) that about three-fourths of crashes involving children occurred on local roads and undivided highways with similar injury rates in various road types. Additionally, kids are at greatest risk of crash injury when they are only 11-20 minutes from home. Finally, the injury rate for children in crashes occurring overnight (between 8pm and 6am) is about twice that of the daytime. Children are not immune from a crash-related injury just because the trip is local, short, or at night. (For more information on this data, access the 2008 PCPS Fact and Trend Report).
It will be important to fully understand the methodology of the new SafeKids survey, and validate the results with future work, but these initial findings are concerning. They suggest the question: How can child passenger safety advocates, health care professionals, and others best convey to parents that they should always use an age-appropriate restraint on every trip? Although there are practical situations that can challenge this goal, parents should do their best to appropriately restraint their children in order to reduce or prevent fatal or disabling injuries in the event of a crash. Awareness and education are paramount for all families, regardless of socioeconomic status or education level.