Study: Most kids not safely seated in cars. Is your child?

Most U.S. kids are not sitting safely in cars due to improper restraints and underage kids sitting in the front seat, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

In the U.S. car crashes are the leading cause of death for children older than 3. More than 140,000 children are injured in car crashes.

From LiveScience.com:

“Researchers observed nearly 22,000 children and found that just 3 percent of children between ages  1 and 3 who were restrained at all were sitting in a proper, rear-facing car seat, and only 10 percent of 8- to 10-year-old children were properly restrained in a booster seat or a car seat.”

“The difficulty people have in adhering to car safety regulations may show how dramatically they’ve changed in recent years, said the study’s author, Dr. Michelle Macy, of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “For parents, it’s not anything they would have done as kids,” she said….”

“The newest AAP recommendations say that until age 2, children should sit in rear-facing seats, and  children over age 2 should sit in front-facing seats with harnesses until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s capacity. Then, a booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the height of an average 11-year-old. Kids shouldn’t sit in the front seat until they’re 13 years old, the AAP says….”

“Additionally, the researchers found a wide gap in car seat and seat belt use between white children and children of black or Hispanic descent. Among kids ages 3 and under, black or Hispanic children were 10 times more likely to be unrestrained than their white counterparts.”

Common mistakes that researchers found were:

Children older than 7 not using booster seats (only 2 percent were using a booster seat) and kids 8 to 10 were often sitting in the front seat.

I see kids up front all the time out here and I can’t decide if it’s the law or just an Arizona attitude of you’re not telling me what to do (they are not required to wear helmets on motorcycles).

How well are you adhering to car seat and booster recommendations? Are your grade-school kids still in boosters? Are your grade-schoolers riding up front? What are you thoughts on the changing recommendations?

35 comments Add your comment

[...] Study: Most kids not safely seated in cars. Is your child?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Most U.S. kids are not sitting safely in cars due to improper restraints and underage kids sitting in the front seat, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. In the U.S. car crashes are the leading cause of …Seven children in 4 states die after being left in hot carsExaminer.comFew kids using reccomended safety restraints in cars, racial and ethnic …ABC Action NewsKids in cars less protected than they should beAmerican Council on Science and HealthConsumerReports.org (blog) -HealthCanal.comall 54 news articles » [...]

Penguinmom

August 8th, 2012
3:25 am

I can’t imagine doing a rear-facing seat with a 1 or 2 year old. It’s hard enough when they are younger and their legs hit the back of the seat. Once they had good muscle control of their neck, our kids strained around to try to see where we were going so their head wasn’t safely settled on the car seat when they were rear-facing. I felt like their neck was less protected rear facing when they were trying to see. When we turned them around they could just rest back against the back of the car seat. The leg thing really gets me though, where are they supposed to put their feet and legs if they are rear-facing? Seems like they would be all bunched up.

We do use boosters until they are older than legally required. I think my daughter was 9 or 10 when she got out of the booster and my youngest is currently 8.5 and still in a booster most of the time. We also don’t let our 12 year old sit up front except for an occasional treat. It has saved me having them call ’shotgun’ because she just knows she’s not sitting in the front.

It does drive me crazy to see toddlers standing on the passenger’s lap in the front seat at a traffic light. I realize it’s annoying to have to strap them in but if you just make it an automatic thing, the kids don’t think anything of it.

[...] Study: Most kids not safely seated in cars. Is your child?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Most U.S. kids are not sitting safely in cars due to improper restraints and underage kids sitting in the front seat, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. In the U.S. car crashes are the leading cause of …Seven children in 4 states die after being left in hot carsExaminer.comKids in cars less protected than they should beAmerican Council on Science and HealthFew kids using reccomended safety restraints in cars, racial and ethnic …ABC Action NewsNews-Medical.net -ConsumerReports.org (blog)all 54 news articles » [...]

homeschooler

August 8th, 2012
7:04 am

Ditto everything Penguinmom said. My almost 9 yr old should be in a booster but she’s been out pretty much since she turned 8 (she occasionally sits in it just by choice). My 11 yr old will be 12 in September and is already asking to sit up front when he is 12. I don’t know the law but I thought the recommendation was 12 and I have told him “maybe”. He’s little though. Based on the recommendations above he should probably still be in a booster. It’s hard to imagine a 12 or 13 yr old kid in a booster just like it’s hard to imagine a 2 yr old in a rear facing seat. It just seems to not match their development. Most 1 yr olds I know would be miserable riding rear facing.
It’s funny, I transported an 18 month old last week while at work. The situation came up quickly and I did not have time to go and get the regular car seat. I only had a booster and and infant seat in my car. She was really long but did not weigh much at all. She met the weight limit for the infant seat. I was feeling bad and nervous about her riding rear facing. I guess she should have been. But like Penguinmom said, she spent the whole ride trying to see me and very fussy because she couldn’t turn around and her legs were all curled up. Luckily it was only a 10 minute ride.
I doubt I’ll change anything I’m doing now with my kids but these recommendations are important. I blow off a lot of kid safety info because it seems so over the top but not when it comes to cars. Car accidents are just too common. You really can’t be too careful.

Roni

August 8th, 2012
7:12 am

The recommendations shouldn’t be by age alone in the first place, but instead by age/weight. We left my son rear facing until he was 1, but even that was difficult because he has been off-the-chart tall since he was born. His poor knees were pushed up to his chest riding rear-facing and making him wait until he’s arbitrarily 2 when he’s the height of many 2 year olds already makes no sense. The recommendations for boosters seem to take height more into account which is good – riding in the front seat should be the same. But parents just have to do the best they can and if you have three kids and your backseat contains an infant seat and a booster, the oldest just may have to move to the front seat earlier than recommended.

Augusta

August 8th, 2012
7:33 am

I can’t remember that far back…LOL.

I have friends who NEVER restrained their child in the car. One friend would not put her kid in the car seat, because he cried. So he was up front with her. Even at 2 years old…

Jeff

August 8th, 2012
7:46 am

So with all the public service announcements, massive awareness programs, instructions by hospital personnel, advocates, celebrity endorsements, billboards, commercials, etc, we STILL have this issue?

So are the awareness efforts not working, or do people just not care? Or are they not capable? Or are the people who are saying what the standards should be just that far out of touch with reality?

FJ

August 8th, 2012
7:52 am

I also have an 11 year old that is ready to move to the front. I’ve told him he can when he turns 12 this fall. He is already 5′1″ which is taller than some grown women that are driving! He also wears a size 9 mens shoe. He is very, very cramped in the back seat right now with barely enough room for his legs and feet.

K's Mom

August 8th, 2012
8:21 am

K turned one right as the AAP recommendation changed about rear facing seats from one to two. I spoke to my pediatrician at length about it. The physics behind the recommendation made sense to both of us and because he had never faced forward he was not bothered by that, but his legs got to a point they did not fit. Our pediatrician said to keep him rear facing for as long as his legs would fit and then turn him around. We made it to about 17 months. Our pediatrican said seat manufacturers were going to have to design a seat that addressed the leg room issue.

Here is my deal about 13 year olds still being in the back seat. One of my dear friends is 4′11″ and 41 years old. By height standards she should still be riding in the back seat, but she drives. It makes me nervous to think that kids are getting licenses and learner’s permits having barely ridden in the front of the car.

DB

August 8th, 2012
8:27 am

@Jeff: I think the problem is that the safety rules keep escalating — and to the point where they might as well say kids shouldn’t drive in cars, period. I think back over 50 years of driving in cars — and while yes, safety has improved considerably in the last 50 years (many of us can remember when seat belts were optional equipment on cars, never mind required wear), it sometimes means that people develop an attitude of “just how safe is safe?” We all dutifully bought infant car seats. We then moved kids from the front to the back, we religiously belted our kids in. I had a booster seat for my kids 20 years ago not for safety reasons, but because it gave the kids a little lift so they could see out the window. People care, but it seems like such a production these days — so-and-so can’t ride home with this friend in this car, because they don’t have a booster. This kid can ride, but not in the front seat, never mind that he’s taller than his mother. Dad drops off a car for servicing, and mom suddenly discovers that that was the car that had the booster seat for one of the kids . . . I dunno. I get the “safety” part — but is it really safer? Or does it just give the illusion of safety? Any recommendations based on age instead of height seem a little suspect in the first place. Seat belts that are fully adjustable would be a huge step towards helping families with kids, instead of seat belts that only adjust a couple of inches here or there.

K's Mom

August 8th, 2012
8:31 am

DB you make excellent points. My 2 are really little so the car seats make sense right now, but after about age 5, I begin to wonder what is really needed and what is hype…

MomOf2Girls

August 8th, 2012
8:32 am

My kids are small for their ages (older one is full-grown now, so I guess it’s more correct to say that she is short at 5′). My rule was that they stayed in a booster until they were tall enough to have the seatbelt hit properly without one. That was different from one vehicle to another, so they stayed in boosters a little longer in the van than in the car, and the middle seat was off limits for a while.
I realize that is not what the law says, but I’m not going to have my almost 12 year old daughter suffer the ignominy of being the only one still in a booster seat when she’s going places with her friends just because she’s 55 inches tall.

MomOf2Girls

August 8th, 2012
8:36 am

K’s Mom – great point about the driver’s license. My 15 year old is getting her permit soon, and when she’s in the car with me in the front seat, we often discuss what’s going on with road signs, traffic, conditions, etc. It would be impossible to do this with her in the back seat, since she would not be able to see what was going on. Just imagine if the first time you sat in the front was in the driver’s seat!

K's Mom

August 8th, 2012
8:48 am

@MomOf2Girls, my parents did that starting very early, probably at 12, but maybe even before that. I think it helped me when I started driving.

motherjanegoose

August 8th, 2012
9:03 am

Mine were never in car seats by the time they went to Kinder. They also rode the bus and there are typically no car seats nor seat belts on the bus.

@ DB…not to mention people who travel via plane with children. Can you imagine hauling 3 kids and 3 car seats? Ours are 5 years apart and thus we only had one in a car seat, at a time. I know some car rental places will rent you a car seat but are they really clean? I am not super picky but I would not sleep in a bed with the previous guest’s sheets and putting your child in a car seat that has not been thoroughly cleaned seems similar to me…anyone?

motherjanegoose

August 8th, 2012
9:10 am

@ K’s Mom kids watch our driving habits and can learn so much if we take time to discuss siutations with them. Our daughter was lax about wanting to get her driver’s license. It did not bother me until someone pointed out that she perhaps would need more than one summer’s practice before she headed off to college. YES, that sunk in. Yet another reason why we wanted her to have the car she would be driving to college and be very comfortable with it. She mentioned yesterday, that her last payment will be this winter. Hoorah for her! She drove up to Pigeon Forge with me and back and has, so far, been a good driver. She drives back and forth to Athens all summer..spending 2 or 3 days here and the rest of the week in her apt. and at work. The gas trade off is that she can eat for free here…haha!

Jeff

August 8th, 2012
9:12 am

Thanks DB, you said is better than I. It’s the direction I was going. At what point have we just stop listening to the latest recommendations from these so called experts?

It’s almost like we’re trying to prevent stupidity by over-regulating the people that actually give a crap.

And don’t think for a second that the baby-trinket industry doesn’t have their hand in all of these regulations and articles.

People get upset about being forced to buy health insurance but no one bats an eye when the latest regulation comes out that says we have to buy a car seat that withstands a nascar crash, and puts itself out if it catches on fire.

Or we just stop listening.

Techmom

August 8th, 2012
9:30 am

I think by today’s standards I would have been in a booster seat until I got to high school but they didn’t have them back then. I think the infant seats that were around when I was a baby were more so mom could drive without holding a baby than anything else.

My son stayed in a booster until he done with first grade (7 years) and sat in the backseat for quite some time after that but probably only till 11.

Had the discussion this weekend with my SIL and cousin who both have 1 year olds. Both switched their babies to front facing at a year. One was more b/c my nephew was getting too big (he’s a big kid – 28lbs at a year old) and the other switched her daughter b/c she literally would scream constantly. They pretty much did everything they could not to drive anywhere the first year b/c she was awful in the car. Turned her seat around and she settled right down.

jarvis

August 8th, 2012
9:40 am

Car seat laws are made because of lobbyists. They keep raising the age of the kids in boosters to continue the need to purchase them.

One of Steven Levitt’s earliest Freakonimcs’ studies was on the myth that car seats are any safer for a child over 24 months than a properly worn seat belt. He examined about 40 years of data. Childhood deaths from car accidents started to decline with the increased use in restraints of any kind not the use of car seats.

Whole article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/magazine/10FREAK.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ei=5070&en=641c83d4b0668293&ex=1189915200

Synopsis: http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/07/10/freakonomics-in-the-times-magazine-the-seat-belt-solution/

As an aside, my 5-year-old’s booster slid a little during a short drive last week and became unknowingly propped on the door. When my wife opened up the car door (we have child locks), the seat toppled and he went out onto the concrete head first. Luckily only 3 stitches were needed in the back of his head.

He’s easily big enough for the shoulder harness to properly fit him. Why was he in a booster? Because the law mandates it.

jarvis

August 8th, 2012
9:43 am

TWG, my comments are in moderation. They are nice. I just posted some links to some seat belt/car seat studies by the Freakonomics gang.

JOD

August 8th, 2012
9:44 am

@DB and MomOf2Girls – Whoa, now. That sounds like common sense, and we can’t have that! :o)

We switched DD to a forward-facing seat at about 18 months, similar to other posters. I think Jeff said it quite well…

I would have been in a booster seat until I graduated from high school, so I get annoyed with this garbage. I’m still within a few inches of this ‘rule’, so should a cop have to check my height to ensure I shouldn’t be driving from the backseat? I guess I could sit on a phone book.

NikNak

August 8th, 2012
10:04 am

The age of 2 for rear-facing isn’t exactly arbitrary. It’s not about the age, per say, but more about how developed the muscles in their necks are at certain ages. This has nothing to do with how tall they are.

Techmom

August 8th, 2012
10:29 am

I still am of the notion that car manufacturers could make seats and/or seat belts more adjustable to fit smaller people and kids better. Yes we have the adjustment that moves the seat belt at the should height up and down but it doesn’t adjust enough. I’m not terribly short (almost 5′5″) and the should belt still rubs my neck in my husband’s truck even when the height is all the way down. It seems like the engineering couldn’t be that difficult (they’ve figured out how to put airbags in doors for crying out loud!!

I do know Volvo has built-in boosters in the back seats of some of their vehicles.

mom2alex&max

August 8th, 2012
10:38 am

I think those recommendations are beyond ridiculous. I turned my kids around as soon as they were a year old. They LOATHED being rear facing. And their legs do not fit! Back then they didn’t recommend keeping them facing backwards until 3, so whatever.

Right now my 12 year old sits in the front on occasion. My 9 year old sits on a booster, unless we are crammed with other children for some reason.

I am going to do what *I* think is best, not what the government tells me. I believe they are plenty safe enough now and they were safe enough when they were younger too in a child seat facing FRONT.

YOU try driving in rush hour traffic with a child screaming in the back because he can’t see his mother.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 8th, 2012
11:29 am

jarvis — i didn’t find your comments in the spam cue — did they post?? did you post under different name???

jarvis

August 8th, 2012
11:37 am

Not completely filtered. I can see it but it has this message in italics, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I assume it isn’t visible to anyone else.

I guess your IT department wants to check out the link I posted?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 8th, 2012
11:40 am

it was in moderation instead of spam so guess link threw it off –

Tonya C.

August 8th, 2012
12:01 pm

Jarvis:

1) I LOVE Freakonomics!

2) I had long suspected that. And the AAP to me is nothing more than a lobbying organization. I take what they offer with a long-handled spoon.

3) I hope the little guy is okay. That’s scary being it could have happened to any of my kids.

Techmom

August 8th, 2012
12:03 pm

Your poor kiddo Jarvis!

Do booster seats use the latch system? Latch had just come out when my son was about 5 and the booster seat we had just used the seat belt. I guess I assumed all car seats now days, whether infant, toddler or booster, latched to the seats.

By the way, the other thing we talked about was the fact that car seats have expiration dates on them now…. another way to force people to spend more money I suppose.

MomOf2Girls

August 8th, 2012
12:23 pm

@JOD – you’re so right!

I used to tease my daughter that with the booster seat rules, I was going to have to have her upholstered in white satin for her wedding.

@Techmom – yes, Volvos do (I used to own one). However, if your kid is in one when you get into an accident, it has to be replaced just like a mobile booster. Not cheap!

I just think they’ve gone way too far, and the result is that the rules are being ignored completely. just use some (un)common sense and stop bubble wrapping everyone.

MomOf2Girls

August 8th, 2012
12:25 pm

Whoops – not have her upholstered, have her booster seat upholstered! She’s already going to be upholstered in white satin :-)

CTPAT

August 8th, 2012
12:36 pm

It’s actually the law in GA now that you have children in a restraint (and up to age 8 in a booster seat unless they are more than 57″ tall). As for LATCH, some boosters have latch BUT there are LATCH weight maximums set by your car manufacturer. Some of them are 48lbs. My 7 year old is in a booster but weighs 51 lbs. According to my car manufacturer, we shouldn’t use LATCH with her anymore in my vehicle. I try to remember to buckle in the seat when there’s not child just so that it doesn’t become a projectile in an accident.

Techmom

August 8th, 2012
12:40 pm

What is the harm in still using the latch system above that weight? If the seat belt will hold the child and seat during a car accident as it’s supposed to, it seems as though the latch is just there to keep the seat from becoming a projectile or like in Jarvis’s case, becoming off-balance.

JOD

August 8th, 2012
12:51 pm

TWG – My post was eaten…not sure why. Not awaiting moderation, just gone.

jarvis

August 8th, 2012
1:36 pm

Thanks for the concern ladies. He’s fine. Wasn’t even concussed.

Couldn’t get in the pool for a week, and he hasn’t been able to play baseball since last Tuesday which is torture for him, but other than that he is no worse for wear.

My wife on the other hand had LOTS of guilt. Her hands were full and she couldn’t catch him in time. Obviously not her fault, but you know how mom’s are. She’s run the entire scenario through her head wondering if she had done this or that how he might not have fallen.

@Techmom, no latch system. Although if these teeter totters are going to be required, latches might be a good idea. That said, I’ve never seen a booster with latches.