Injury is a leading cause of death and disability among children in Australia, and globally. We currently have a number of research programs examining different aspects of child injury to try and develop the evidence needed to turn this around.
Child passenger injury
In Australia about 50 percent of injuries are due to road accidents occurs among children in cars. Over the last decade we have been studying how these injuries occur, and what we can do to reduce serious injuries and death.
Using a restraint whenever you travel in a car is the best way to reduce the chance of injury in a crash, but the best protection is provided when the restraint is used correctly and fits well. Car seats and belts are designed for adults and for this reason specific types of restraint systems are available for children as the grow from infancy. Our research demonstrated that most serious injury among restrained children in cars occurs when children use restraints designed for older passengers and/or use the restraint incorrectly. Many injuries to children in car crashes are preventable by correctly using appropriate restraints.
By law children must now sit in an appropriate child restraint until they are at least seven. While our research found that prior to the introduction of these new laws in 2010, just over half of Australian children were not sitting in the right seat for their size, we saw a significant increase in the numbers of children using the right sorts of restraints after the law. However, the law and related community education and awareness programs have had much less effect on the number of children correctly using their restraints. Just over half of of all children continue to travel in cars with at least one error in how the restraint is installed in the vehicle and/or the child is secured in the restraint. Incorrect use of restraints triples the risk of injury in a crash.
The aim of this project is to identify factors that lead to inappropriate and incorrect child restraint use in children from non English speaking background (NESB) communities. It has been demonstrated that these children are more likely to incorrectly and inappropriately use child restraints, however the reasons for this are unclear. Focus groups have been conducted to understand the factors underlying restraint use within each NESB community, thereby allowing the development of effective interventions for this ‘at risk’ group. The interventions will comprise of education programs designed to increase the rates of correct child restraint practices and will be tailored to the specific needs of each NESB community.
Road traffic crashes for car occupants are a leading cause of death and serious injury in children from high and middle income countries globally. Correct use of appropriate child restraints can significantly reduce death and serious injury but there is a need for well powered trials to examine effectiveness of programs to increase optimal child restraint practices. The aim of this trial is to examine the effectiveness of a comprehensive intervention to increase the use of appropriate child restraints, and decrease incorrect use of child restraints in pre-school aged children traveling in cars.
Our group is studying how injuries occur in children when they are involved in crashes, and how changes to the types and design of restraints used by children can reduce serious injuries and death. Key problems include whether children use restraints correctly and whether they use restraints that are appropriate for their size. Recent findings include that rates of misuse of child restraints are high, and much of this misuse is serious enough to compromise the effectiveness of the restraints in crashes. Building on our recent work that led to major changes in child restraint design and usage laws in Australia, Dr Julie Brown and I are currently studying how restraint ergonomics and comfort affect how children use restraints, and whether we can improve how restraints are labelled to help parents to use them correctly.
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