Research In Action
Research In Action
Along with CIRP colleague Matt Maltese, I served on the organizing committee for the 1st International Conference on Children's Car Safety Technology. This meeting of multinational leaders in government, industry, research, and advocacy focused on the issue of child passenger safety in China.
We were members of a multinational coalition of researchers and industry experts (including representatives from Sweden, France, Germany, and the US) whose goal was to jump-start activities in Shanghai regarding support of a recently passed law requiring child restraints for young children.
Two statistics reported during the conference stood out to me. At least 18,000 children are dying every year in motor vehicle crashes in China. This is in part due to the exceptionally low child restraint use rate-- one percent! To put this in perspective, the corresponding number in US is ~900 child deaths per year in motor vehicle crashes.
I was honored to give the opening speech of the conference and aimed to illustrate for the 150 in attendance that child passenger safety is an important and preventable health problem for their society. With a hope that China can build on the decades of experience working to reduce child occupant fatality rates in the US and Europe, I spoke about the national and state-level movement to change laws using evidence of the effectiveness of restraints in the US. Laws that were supported with awareness education ultimately led to remarkable change in restraint use behavior among US parents.
As the conference progressed, two key themes emerged that attendees felt could turn the tide on child restraint use in China:
- The important role of legislative policy. Key members of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Security attended and presented at the conference so this approach is off to a strong start.
- Understanding behavioral norms is critical. Specifically, the role of the grandparents as a barrier to child restraint use needs to be addressed. The parents of the child value and respect the role of grandparents in setting their behavior and grandparent “norms” are to hold children in their laps while traveling in cars. The perception of child discomfort in child restraints contributes to the lap holding behavior as well.
The conference energized my passion for the work we do here at CIRP in child passenger safety. It was fulfilling to be a part of the beginning of a movement to save a substantial number of lives in China. I am excited to see the progress when I return for the 2nd Annual Conference, where Matt and I will continue to serve on the Technical Planning Committee.
CIRP has always had a national presence in setting the agenda for child safety and, along with a broad base of collaborators and stakeholders, has positively affected the lives of many children. This forum provided an opportunity to do this on an international level and hopefully contribute to advancing child safety in China. I was honored to be part of it.