Objective—Because of risks from deploying airbags to children in front seats, extensive publicity has been aimed at getting them restrained and in rear seats. The objective of this study was to assess restraint use and seating positions among children in vehicles with and without airbags.
Method—Surveys were conducted in cities in Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas 1998. Restraint use and seating position were noted for all children, as well as their estimated age, driver belt use, airbag presence, and vehicle license plate number.
Results—Fewer children were observed in the front seats of vehicles with passenger airbags (24%) than in vehicles without them (36%). Most of the children seated in front were ages 7–12 (44%–61%), followed by 3–6 year olds (29%–35%). Very few children ages 0–2 were seated in front (5%–12%). The overwhelming majority of children ages 0–2 were restrained. However, children ages 3–6 seated in the front were least likely to be restrained and most likely to be improperly restrained. Restraint use was higher when the driver was belted, but about 30% of 3–6 year olds were unrestrained even with a belted driver.
Conclusions—Efforts should continue to educate parents about the importance of correct restraint use and rear seating for children, particularly once children move from child safety seats into adult belts. Efforts also should be made to enforce the seat belt laws that exist in every state.
- seating position
- motor vehicle crashes
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