Report numberRA-2004-47
TitleSecurity resources for children in the car
SubtitleTechnical description and determinants of use
AuthorsEllen De Beuckeleer
Johan Verlaak
Filip Van den Bossche
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Traffic Safety 2002-2006
Number of pages58
Document languageDutch
Partner(s)Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek
Work packageOther: Vehicle technology, Behaviour

Traffic safety numbers show that traffic accidents are by far the most important cause of death among children. A major part of these young traffic victims were passengers in a car. Therefore it is important that drivers, who carry children in their car, are aware of the risks, and that they use the available restraint systems correctly. Research indicates that child restraint systems are often used incorrectly, which results in less protection for the child in case of an accident.


In this report, child restraint systems and their use are discussed. In the first part some technical aspects of child restraint systems are covered. In the second part the behavioural aspect of child restraint use is investigated.


Technical aspects

A child’s build is different from an adult’s build, which makes that the safety belt, which is developed for adults, gives insufficient protection. Therefore several different child restraint systems were developed, each of them appropriate for a specific weight or age.


Previous research shows that the mounting of a child seat in a vehicle is often incorrect, due to the complexity of fastening the child seat with the conventional seat belt. To address this problem, the ISOFIX system was developed in 1990. This system aims at a solid and simple mounting of the child seat, uniform for all vehicles and child seats. At this moment, an unambiguous standard is not defined yet, but particular ISOFIX child seats can be used in those vehicles approved for carrying that specific child seat.


Using an ISOFIX child seat results in a considerable decrease in incorrect mounting, compared to the conventional child seats. Therefore one may say that this system is seriously improving the safety of children in cars. The disadvantages are the higher cost and the non-uniformity.


Policy makers should strive for the widespread introduction of ISOFIX child seats. Therefore it is important that soon a general standard is defined that applies to all ISOFIX child seats. Once this standard is agreed on, all child seats can be used in every vehicle. This may encourage the distribution of the ISOFIX child seat and, finally, reduce its cost.


It is also meaningful to introduce a quality label for child seats. Every child seat has to comply with the European directive ECE R44/03, but from tests by consumer organisations it can be concluded that this is not a solid guaranty for a safe seat.


Behavioural aspects

Apart from the technical adaptations to be made, also the behaviour of the users of child seats should be improved.


Campaigns using a personal message focused on a predefined target group should be set up to change the behaviour with respect to the correct use of child seats. Also the motivation has to be addressed.


To determine the target group, first one has to gain insight in the (correct) use of child restraints. Therefore it was investigated which aspects determine the use of child seats. Due to the fact that very little research on this subject was done in Belgium, an international literature study was done.


From this study the following determinants for the use of child seats were found: the relation of seat belt use between driver and passenger, the relation between seat belt use and the age of the child and the position of the child in the car.


Based on these determinants, we propose the following target groups for campaigns which pursuit the improvement of child seat use: male drivers, drivers with infants and older children on board, drivers who carry non-related children and drivers of crowded cars.


For improving the correct use of child seats, the target groups should be: minorities, less educated people, drivers who frequently remove the child seat out of the car, drivers who carry non-related children and drivers with multiple young children on board.


Finally some recommendations for further research on the use of child seats in Belgium are formulated. In this research the following should be considered: the age and length of the child, the number of children in the car and the amount of available restraints, the available information, the relation between seat belt wearing of the driver and child and the position of the child in the car.

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The Policy Research Centre for Traffic Safety carries out policy relevant scientific research under the authority of the Flemish Government. The Centre is the result of a

cooperation between Hasselt University, KU Leuven and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.


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