Report numberRA-2006-82
TitleUse of child restaint systems in cars
SubtitleObservations in Flanders
AuthorsLara Vesentini
Bert Willems
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Traffic Safety 2002-2006
Number of pages47
Document languageDutch
Work packageOther: Behaviour

To reduce the amount of (fataly) injured children, it is important that children use appropriate child restraint systems. It is proved that child restraint systems are effective in preventing death and injury of children. Though, the effectiveness is reduced by incorrect use, premature graduation, et cetera.

In the past restraint use of children in Belgium is observed, but these studies are not capable of showing the number of children using the appropriate restraint according to age, weight and length nor the number of children who are putting the shoulder belt behind the back or arm. As mentioned before, this is important to know because premature graduation and putting the shoulder belt behind the back or arm increases the risk of injury.

Therefore 1376 children from 780 cars are observed at 30 different locations (schools and recreation). Restraint use of children is noted as well as the child restraint system used. Incorrect use of the shoulder belt is observed and the seating position. Then seat belt use of the driver is determined. Finally, the driver is asked the age, weight and length of the children as well as the duration of the ride.

Restraint use of children increases when the driver buckled up, the ride is less then one hour, the children are younger, the children are in front of the car, a recreation area is the destination and there are less then 5 children in the car. Furthermore this studies shows that almost 37% of the children is not restrained and of the children who are restrained, half of the children are prematurely taken out of the appropriate restraint system. The shoulder belt is put behind the back or arm by 21.12% of the children. The risk of incorrectly use of the shoulder belt increases when children use not the appropriate restraint according to age, weight and length. Especially the age group of 7 to 9 years old are often unrestrained or inappropriately restrained.

It is not possible to determine the effect of the number of occupants on restraint use, because only the number of child passengers is known.

It is recommended to adjust the criteria of child restraint systems. Length should be a criterion. Especially the appropriate maximum length of rearward-facing restraints/minimum length of forward facing restraints and the maximum length of booster seats/minimum length of seat belt needs more clarification. It is also recommended to follow the EU-guideline 2003/20/EG, which will lead to more consistency between recommendations and law. Because a lot of children use not the appropriate restraint, it is important for campaigns to focus on this, especially 7 to 9 year olds. Campaigns should also point out that children always have to use restraints, regardless the destination of the ride. The fact is, restraint use is lower when driving to school in comparison to drives to recreation areas.

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