June 8, 2006

Child restraints safer in a crash than seat belts

By Charnicia Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a car crash, toddlers and
other young children are less likely to be killed if they ride
in a booster seat or use some other type of child restraint
system rather than just a seat belt, new study findings show.

"Parents should feel confident that using an
age-appropriate restraint for their young child is the best
thing they could do to minimize their child's risk of death,"
study co-author Dr. Dennis R. Durbin, of the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told Reuters Health.

Previous studies have found that child restraint systems
are associated with a lower risk of non-fatal injury as well.

In their investigation, Durbin and his colleagues looked at
national data representing nearly 965,000 children, aged 2
through 6 years, involved in two-way crashes from 1998 to 2003,
in which the vehicle was afterwards non-drivable. About 1 of
every 1000 children died.

Fewer than half (45 percent) of all children were in rear-
or forward-facing child car seats, booster seats or other child
restraint systems, the investigators report in the Archives of
Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

After taking the children's seating position into
consideration as well as other factors, Durbin and his team
found that kids in child restraint systems had a 21 percent
lower risk of dying than those who only used seat belts.

Further, when cases in which the child restraint system or
seat belts were seriously misused were excluded from the
analysis, there was an even greater benefit of child
restraints: a 28 percent reduction in the risk of death in
comparison to seat belts alone, the report indicates.

Seat belts are designed with "average-sized adults in mind"
for optimal performance, Durbin explained, likening a child's
use of adult seat belts to the idea of getting a 5-year-old
child to wear adult-sized clothing. "It's obvious that there's
a problem," he said.

Further, in light of "conventional wisdom" among parents
that car seats are difficult to use properly, Durbin emphasized
that the current study included "real families, real crashes,
real kids." Even accounting for any improperly installed car
seats, he said, the findings show that the child restraints
offer "better protection from death than seat belts alone."

"It's worth the extra time and effort to put your child in
a right restraint," Durbin concluded.

For those who need help in addition to the information
provided in their car and car seat manuals, Durbin suggested a
visit to www.chop.edu\carseat for information on car seat
installation and for links to other related sites.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, June