February 7, 2002
SAFE KIDS Study Reveals One-Third of
Children Are Riding in the Wrong Restraints for Their Age and Size
New Survey Also Finds 14% of Children Ride
Completely Unrestrained in Motor Vehicles
Almost half of parents are making major mistakes when it comes to protecting
their children in motor vehicles. In the largest interactive, observational
survey of child restraint use in America, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign
found that 33% of children ages 14 and under were riding in the wrong
restraint type for their age and size. In addition, 14% of the children
observed were riding completely unbuckled. Older children were more likely
to be both unrestrained and in the wrong restraint.
The SAFE KIDS report, Child Passengers at Risk in America: A National Study
of Restraint Use, is based on observations of 9,332 children traveling in
6,297 vehicles. Data were collected at 174 sites in 48 states and the
District of Columbia between November 2001 and January 2002.
Inappropriately Restrained Children:
-- 33% (3,042) of children were in the wrong restraint for their size and
63% (1,626) of kids who should have been in belt-positioning booster seats
(typically ages 4 to 8) were inappropriately restrained
-- 14% (1,295) of children were riding completely unrestrained.
24% (284) of kids ages 10-14, and 20% of kids ages 5-9 were riding
SAFE KIDS also found that driver safety belt use oftentimes dictates child
restraint use. Nearly 40% (923) of children riding with unbelted drivers
were completely unrestrained, compared to only 5% (355) of children riding
with drivers in safety belts.
The SAFE KIDS findings are consistent with those of the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration's 2000 National Occupant Protection Use Survey
(NOPUS) estimates of unrestrained children. However, the SAFE KIDS report
sheds new light on a larger group of children who are riding improperly
The serious consequences of children riding in the wrong restraint or
without protection at all are well documented. Recent data from the Crash
Injury Research & Engineering Network (CIREN) project indicate that
inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more
likely to suffer a severe injury in a crash than their appropriately
restrained peers. More than half (56%) of the children killed in motor
vehicle crashes in 2000 were completely unrestrained.
"This research tells us that parents still aren't getting it -- they just
don't realize that they're gambling with their child's life when leaving
them unbuckled or in the wrong seat," said Heather Paul, Ph.D., executive
director of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. "We need more powerful ways to
persuade them -- more education, better laws and stronger enforcement of
those car seat laws that are on the books."
Martin Eichelberger, M.D., director of Emergency Trauma Services at
Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and president of the
National SAFE KIDS Campaign, cares for children who've suffered serious
injuries as a result of riding in the wrong type of restraint or completely
unrestrained. "The tragedy of witnessing young lives lost or forever altered
by injury is not easily forgotten; nor is the heartache that comes from
talking with their parents who wish they had only known how to protect their
SAFE KIDS believes there are three key ways to change parents' knowledge and
behavior: enacting stronger child occupant protection laws; enforcing those
laws with stiff penalties for offenders; and educating adults about the
dangers of not properly restraining children.
The SAFE KIDS Coalition of Southeastern Pennsylvania will conduct a child
safety seat checkup this weekend at Lankford Buick-Pontiac-GMC in
Conshohocken. The check will run on Saturday, February 9, 2002 from 10 a.m.
- 1 p.m. An appointment is necessary so please call Lynne Ciocca at
610-278-5117, extension 182 to schedule a time. This program is supported by
the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources and the General Motors Corporation
through its SAFE KIDS BUCKLE UP(R) program.
The entire report, Child Passengers at Risk in America: A National Study of
Restraint Use, can be found on the SAFE KIDS Web site at http://www.safekids.org/.
For more information on SAFE KIDS BUCKLE UP, visit the SAFE KIDS Web site or
call the toll-free hotline at (800) 441-1888 to find a child safety seat
checkup near you.
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign is the first and only national nonprofit
organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood
injury -- the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. Three hundred
state and local SAFE KIDS coalitions in all 50 states, the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico comprise the Campaign. Former U.S. Surgeon General
C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D., is chairman of the Campaign.