Safety Seats Get Nod Over Belt Use Alone

Study showed 21% reduction in the risk of death for children in crashes

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TUESDAY, June 6, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The use of a child safety seat -- compared to the use of seat belts only -- reduces a child's risk of death in a car accident by 21 percent, a new study shows.

The U.S. study examined car crash data to determine if there was a difference in fatalities in children, between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, who were strapped in with a safety belt and those restrained in a car seat.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, reviewed data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which only includes crashes in which at least one person was fatally injured. The FARS database included 7,813 children involved in fatal crashes, and the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS CDS) included data on 1,433 children involved in nonfatal crashes between 1998 and 2003.

The results appear in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The study showed that fewer than half of children involved in a two-way crash who were restrained in a car seat sustained fatal injuries. Nearly 16 percent of children were restrained in the front seat of the car. More than 15 percent of children were riding in vehicles made before 1990, and 4 percent were riding with teenage drivers at the time of the accident.

"Child restraint systems offer improved fit of restraints for children who are too small for the adult-sized seat belt, thereby affording a mechanical protection advantage over seat belts," study author Michael R. Elliott said in a prepared statement. "If restraining systems are seriously misused, however, their safety performance would be expected to be diminished," he added.

Based on these results, the researchers added that a campaign to promote the use of child safety seats is necessary, and that stricter laws and educational programs should also be implemented.

More information

Check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more information on car seat safety.

SOURCES: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 5, 2006

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