Children in America aren’t obeying guidelines for their age for how to properly travel in a vehicle, according to a newly released study. They are either riding in the front seat too early or not sitting in the proper direction in the back seat. The study was released in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine’s September issue. “The most important finding from this study is that, while age and racial disparities exist, overall few children are using the restraints recommended for their age group, and many children over 5 are sitting in the front seat,” study co-author Dr. Michelle Macy, with the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said in a news release for the study. New findings resulted in changes to guidelines which were released in 2011 concerning child car safety. They advise that children sit in the back in rear-facing seats until they are 2. They can sit in forward car seats until they reach a height and weight requirement outlined by the car seat manufacturer. They should also use a car seat with a five-point harness system. They are supposed to use the booset car seat until they become 57 inches tall, which is around the average height of an 11-year-old. If the child is under 13, they should ride in the back seat.
The study used information collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Survey on the Use of Booster Seats from around 21,500 children. Children included in the study were observed at various public areas including gas stations, restaurants, and child care facilities. Details they recoreded included type of restraint, where the child sat, and the child’s gender. Other details such as the vehicle make and model and whether the adult was using a restraint were also noted. Ages and ethnicities were gathered by researchers. Using this data gathering technique, investigators were able to learn that older children were less likely to be restrained. “We found that few children remain rear-facing after age 1, fewer than 2 percent use a booster seat after age 7, many over age 6 sit in the front seat,” Macy said. Black and hispanic children also did not use restraints as often as white children. “Our findings demonstrate that not all children have been reached equally by community-based public education campaigns and the passage of child safety seat laws in 48 states,” Macy said. “Further development and dissemination of culturally specific programs that have demonstrated success in promoting restraint use among minority children are necessary. Further, the findings may also help in developing strategies to lower the racial and ethnic disparities seen in children experiencing crash-related injuries.”