Parents Not Consistent About Safety When Carpooling
The proper use of car safety seats can keep children from being injured in case of a car accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14. The use of child safety seats reduces the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers in passenger cars.
Unfortunately, however, the use of booster seats declines from ages 4 to 8 and is consistently lower than national goals. Even parents who are insistent upon their child being buckled up in their own car are sometimes lax when it comes to carpooling.
Michelle Macy MD, a pediatrician and clinical lecturer of emergency medicine, and colleagues examined data from the 2010 CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health which included 12 questions from 681 parents about child restraints. Overall, only 76% of parents, whose children were between the ages of four and eight, used a child safety seat. The children most likely to be in a safety seat were those whose families lived in a seat where its use was mandated by law.
About 64% of the parents stated that they participated in carpooling or ride sharing. But only 79% of those reported that they would always ask another driver to use a booster seat for when their child is riding in another car. Only 55% would have their child use a booster seat if their child’s friend typically rides without one, notes Dr. Macy.
The researchers believe practical barriers, including limited vehicle space and difficulties making arrangements with other drivers, lead parents to abandon safety seats when carpooling.
Restraints are always recommended for children every time they ride in a car. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their policy statement on child passenger safety last year and recommends the use of a booster seat from the time children outgrow their forward-facing car seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall – which is around the age of 8 to 12 for most children.
"Parents who do not consistently use booster seats for kids who are shorter than 57 inches tall are placing children at greater risk of injury," says Macy. "Parents need to understand the importance of using a booster seat for every child who does not fit properly in an adult seat belt on every trip."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to parents that if their child is being driven by someone else, ensure that the kids are placed in properly-fitting safety seats and that the person in charge of transportation knows how to install and use the car seat correctly. It is best to avoid attempting to carry more person in a car than can be transported safely, which includes ensuring that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat.
The NHTSA has a one-page guide entitled “Car Seat Recommendations for Children” describing the appropriate car seat based on a child’s age and size.
Macy M, et al. "Carpooling and booster seats: a national survey of parents" Pediatrics 2012; 129: 290-298.
Other Resources Include:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, 2008 Data
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