Children at risk from poor restraint in cars

Parents and guardians are regularly putting children at increased risk of injury or death, by putting them in car restraints that aren’t the right size or are not used properly, according to a Neuroscience Research Australia researcher.

Associate Professor Lynne Bilston and her co-authors found that children in suboptimal restraints, including adult seat belts, are more likely to be seriously injured in car accidents than children in optimal restraints such as booster seats and child restraints.

The research, which has just been published in Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (JPCH), was based on data from 152 children between the ages of 2 and 8 who were involved in a car crash and presented to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead between July 2002 and January 2005.

Most of the children (93%) were reported to have been using some form of restraint, but the majority them (82%) were using restraints that were not the most appropriate for their size.

The paper reports that all seven children who were killed in the road accidents were sub-optimally restrained. Optimally restrained children received only minor injuries. “All of the seriously injured children were in a restraint that was inappropriate for their size, using a restraint incorrectly, or were unrestrained,” said A/Professor Bilston. “We need to encourage correct use of the most appropriate restraint for children in order to reduce the number and severity of car crash injuries.”

The authors recommend children up to the age of eight years should always be in an optimal restraint, such as a booster seat for older children and child restraints for younger ones.