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Children being put at risk by improper seat belt use


NSW Special Minister of State, John Della Bosca, today announced the results of new research which shows an alarming number of children are being put at risk through the improper use of seat belts and child restraints.

The research, undertaken by the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute with the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and the Sydney Children’s Hospital, examined crash and injury data for children aged 2-8 years who were in motor vehicle accidents.

"Our research project reveals 82 per cent of children in our study who were hospitalised after a crash were not using the best restraint for their size," said the Institute’s A/Professor Lynne Bilston.

"It also shows children are graduating to seatbelts before they are ready – and this is increasing their risk of serious injury."

Researchers found that children who were correctly using the most appropriate restraint for their size were very well protected - even in severe crashes.

For passengers aged four years and under, the research reveals:

  • 29 per cent of children who were not properly fitted into the correct restraint for their size sustained serious injuries, while no correctly restrained children received serious injuries.
  • A child’s injury risk substantially increases when they are moved from forward facing child seats to booster seats and adult seat belts before they outgrow their restraint.

Other research findings include:

  • The head, abdomen and extremities were the most commonly seriously injured regions.
  • Putting the seatbelt under the arm or behind the back and poor belt fit contributed to some abdominal injuries in children.
  • Children in the front seat were more than 70 per cent more likely to sustain a serious injury than those seated in the rear.

"Child restraints are designed to provide protection to child passengers. Choosing and correctly using the restraint designed for your child’s size ensures they have the best available protection in the event of a crash," said A/Professor Bilston.

According to Roads and Traffic Authority road crash data, in 2004 there were 208 casualties among car passengers aged four years or younger. This includes seven deaths and 201 injuries.

Anne Graham | EurekAlert!
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