Study Finds Lack of Proper Child Restraints Linked to Car Crash Injuries and Fatalities

Researchers found many deaths were linked to the use of the wrong type of child restraints, with some children using seat belts too early and others secured in the wrong type of car seat.

A new study reveals nearly half of children who were injured or died after an auto accident were either improperly restrained or not belted in at all.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) published the findings of a child restraint study this month, indicating nearly a quarter of infants, and more than a third of children ages 7 to 10, who died in car accidents between 2017 and 2021 were not restrained at all.

The new analysis was issued in conjunction with Chicco USA, makers of the top rated “KeyFit” Infant Car Seat, as part of a nationwide “Child Passenger Safety Week”, which is observed from September 17 through September 23.

AAA says it released the study to emphasize proper car seat use for children, and educate parents on which type of restraint they should be using based on their child’s size and age.

Child Injuries and Deaths Linked to Improper Restraint

AAA researchers analyzed car crash data from 2017 until 2021, which showed that 48% of child injuries and 51% of child deaths happened due to improper or a lack of restraints. According to the data, more than 3.9 million children under 10 years old were injured, and at least 2,789 died between 2017 and 2021.

The findings indicate 38% of children aged 7-10 who died in an accident from ages 7-10 were not restrained, and 24% of infants ages 0 to 3 who died were unrestrained.

AAA researchers found that, in many cases, parents and caregivers used the wrong type of restraint to secure their child. Often, the children who died while restrained were wearing a seat belt too early in their development, or they were placed in the wrong type of car seat for their age and size, they determined.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that proper restraints reduce infant fatalities by 71% and child deaths by 54%.

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Child Restraint Recommendations

Traffic safety experts indicate parents may not realize the proper way to restrain their child, as many state laws focus on the child’s age instead of their height.

The AAA issued the following recommendations to parents about properly installing a car seat, as well as resources to find the correct type of restraint to use for each growth stage:

  • Use a booster seat until the child is 57 inches tall.
  • Always ensure the child is restrained before and during vehicle operation, especially if the child cannot restrain themselves.
  • Visit ChiccoUSA.com for the most recent car seat guidelines, tutorials on proper installation, and more information on proper child restraints.
  • Visit a local fire department, which often have a technician available to confirm if a car seat is correctly installed.

For more information, consumers can visit AAAFoundation.org.

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