Safe Car Seat Usage Improving Among Parents: Study

A new study suggests that safety education programs have increased the safe use of car seats by American parents, with more infants and toddlers riding in the proper rear-facing position than ever recorded. 

Researchers will be presenting a new study at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago today, according to a press release, which highlights the major role recent efforts have had in improving child passenger safety routines.

The study was performed over the course of seven years, looking at data involving 7,725 children who were 15 years of age or younger. The data was collected at 25 different locations throughout Indiana between 2009 and 2015, with Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) noting the type, position and location of the child safety seats.

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The findings indicate the use of rear-facing infant seats increased from 84% in 2009 to 91% in 2015. During the same time period, the practice of placing toddlers between the age of 12 and 17 months in rear facing positions increased from roughly 12% to 61%.

Lead researcher, Dr. Joseph O’Neil, medical director of the Automotive Safety Program at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, stated significant progress in child passenger seating has been made, however there are still areas for improvement.

Researchers found the use of booster seats for children between the ages of four and seven decreased from 72 percent to 65 percent during the study’s time frame. Observers also found an estimated 31 percent of children between the ages of eight and twelves year of age were seated in the front passenger seat, which the AAP does not recommend until at least thirteen years of age.

O’Neil stated the data can help safety advocates be more specific in targeting safety practices which are lacking. Primary care providers and other child safety advocates can use this information to develop counseling points and targeted educational campaigns to increase child seating safety, according to O’Neil.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises children should be placed in a rear facing car seat from birth until three years old, or until they outgrow rear-facing seats. They should be placed in a forward facing seat until they reach the heat or weight limit allowed by the car manufacturer, usually from ages four to seven.

After outgrowing forward-facing seats, the NHTSA recommends parents and caregivers then use a booster seat until a seat belt fits them properly, which means the lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should fit snugly across the shoulder and chest instead of across the neck or face.


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