June 5, 2006

Study Touts Child Safety Seats Over Belts

WASHINGTON -- Young children stand a better chance of avoiding death in a serious car crash if they're secured in a car seat rather than buckled in a seat belt, according to a study released Monday.

Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that children between the ages of 2 and 6 were 28 percent less likely to be killed in a crash if they were sitting in the back in either a car seat or booster seat instead of in a seat belt.

Even in cases where the child seat was not attached to the vehicle's seat or the child wasn't wearing the seat's harness, the risk of death was reduced by 21 percent, the study found.

"Parents should feel confident that using an age-appropriate restraint in the rear seat for their child is the best thing they can do to minimize their child's risk of both injury and death in the event of a crash," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, the study's author and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Philadelphia hospital.

The study, published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, followed questions raised in July 2005 by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the authors of "Freakonomics," about the effectiveness of child safety seats versus buckling up children in seat belts.

The CHOP researchers examined government data from 1998-2003 for nearly 9,000 children ages 2-6 who were involved in serious motor vehicle crashes.

Seat belts are designed to protect an average adult-sized male and the improper positioning of the lap and shoulder portions of the belt put children at risk for ejection and serious injuries to the head, neck, abdomen and spinal cord, the researchers said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that any infant up to 20 pounds ride in a rear-facing child seat and any toddler weighing 20 to 40 pounds ride in a child seat with a harness.

The agency advises a child heavier than 40 pounds but not yet 4 feet 9 inches tall to be in a booster seat. NHTSA recommends that all children ride in the back seat until age 13.

NHTSA estimated that about 73 percent of children ages 4-7 were restrained in 2004, while more than 9 out of 10 children under age 4 were observed with some type of restraint.


On the Net:

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: http://www.chop.edu/carseat