April 2, 2006

Obese kids can’t fit into car seats, experts warn

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of obese U.S.
children cannot fit into car seats, leaving them at risk in the
event of a crash, researchers said on Monday.

"As the number of obese children in the United States
increases, it is essential to develop child safety seats that
can protect children of all sizes and shapes," wrote study
author Lara Trifiletti of Ohio State University in Columbus.

According to the study published in the journal
"Pediatrics," more than 282,000 overweight children under the
age of 7 do not fit into most child safety or booster seats
available on the market and therefore are improperly restrained
inside vehicles.

"We hope that the results of this study can be used to
influence future products brought to market," Trifiletti said.

The study identified only four types of car seats that some
obese toddlers could use. However each cost at least $240, and
with childhood obesity concentrated in low-income families,
many might be deterred by such prices.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for
U.S. children, and more than 1.5 million are involved in
crashes each year.

Properly restraining toddlers in car seats has been found
to reduce their risk of fatal injury by more than half, the
report said.

Rates of child obesity, which is linked to later heart
disease and diabetes, have doubled or even tripled over the
past 30 years depending on the age group.

An estimated 182,000 American 3-year-olds, or nearly 5
percent, weigh more than 40 pounds (18 kg), representing the
largest category of children whose caregivers may not be able
to find an affordable car seat, the report said.

Older obese children may not fit into booster seats and
many may not have reached the requisite height of 57 inches

to use an adult seat belt.

Forward-facing child safety seats are normally designed for
children weighing up to 40 pounds (18 kg), while booster seats
can accommodate children weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kg).