Child-Safety Seat Use Drops As Kids Age

The right seat
It's National Child Passenger Safety Week, a week that reminds us to renew our focus on car safety for our kids. It's a time to take a closer look at what's working and what needs work. According to an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, there's a lot of room for improvement.

The three-year study used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on the child-safety-seat practices of 21,476 children younger than 13. It found some alarming trends. One particularly troubling development is that as kids get older, they're less likely to be secured in child-safety seats.

  • According to the study, few children remain rear-facing after age 1, despite an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children stay rear-facing until age 2 or when they reach the weight and height limit of the seat in that position.
  • The safest place for kids 12 and younger is the backseat, but the study found that many kids are sitting in the front seat: one in seven of kids aged 6 to 7 years old, a quarter of those aged 8 to 10 and more than a third of those aged 11 to 12 are sitting up front.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends kids remain in a booster until they're at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. Boosters ensure proper and safe seat belt placement, but the study found that after age 7, less than 2% of kids use one.

Not only are some adults not following the safety recommendations for their kids, but they’re setting a bad example. The study found that children with an unrestrained driver were 23 times more likely to be unrestrained themselves.

How do we reverse these trends? The study's authors have a few ideas.

"Tailored child passenger safety programs are needed to address the motivations of parents from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and for drivers who do not use seat belts themselves … One novel approach to increasing child passenger restraint use may be to mandate child passenger safety education for parents who are ticketed for driving unrestrained," it suggested.

Not sure if your child is in the right seat? NHTSA has a new website that makes it easier to find the right car seat. Not sure the child-safety seat is installed correctly? Look up a car seat check location here.

Parents Still Aren't Getting Car Seats Right
NHTSA Recommends Kids Stay in Car Seats, Boosters Longer's Car Seat Checks

By Jennifer Geiger | September 17, 2012 | Comments (9)


Chris K

We fix this with engineering. Why are seat belts unsafe for those shorter than 4'9"? If automakers can make cars that are safe for shorter passengers this whole booster seat issue goes away.

My daughter is 20 months old and is riding rear-facing. We'll keep her that way as long as possible, which won't be much longer.

Matt C.

How about we not waist more time and money on these useless studies and worry about real problems. I'm willing to bet that far more children die of hunger than from a car accident where they were not buckled in properly.

Chris K

So, if malaria kills more kids per year than auto accidents, I should toss my kids in the back of a pickup truck and drive drunk?


I'll put money on it that low income, less educated, and/or racial minorities are much less likely to follow the guidelines. Personally, I've never seen a booster seat being used (including for myself).

Matt C.

@ Chris K

I'm saying common sense is what keeps kids alive and we don't need a study to tell us that. Parents making good decisions is the difference. The money for these "studies" would be better spent elsewhere. BTW, nothing wrong with trip to the corner store in the back of a pick up as long as the driver is cautious.

Matt C.

I don't even know where to begin with the flaws in your logic. Can a "cautious driver" somehow control what everyone else is doing around them? Even the slightest fender bender can cause serious injuries when you're sliding around in a box surrounded by metal and open air.


My apologies, I meant to address that to Matt C, not post as him

Chris K

Visualize this, Matt: Get your pickup truck and put a cherry pie in the bed. Drive down the road at 35mph and then slam on the brakes. Do you think the pie will be intact in the back seat?

Now visualize driving carefully down the street only to be broadsided at 35mph by a driver who was looking down to send a text message. Do you think the entire pie will even be in the truck?

Now think of what might happen if you were carrying people rather than pies.

Now, about the personal responsibility thing. Yes, common sense is important. Yes, it's the parent's responsibility to make good decisions. But research into best practices and improving safety is also important. If we didn't do that, we'd all be using lap belts in cars with solid bumpers, and a LOT more people would be dying per year.

To Matt C.

The fact that you think a kid, or anyone for that matter, sitting in the back of a pick up truck is OK in ANY situation besides being parked, makes me hope to god you are not a parent. You are old school. Back then everyone was naive when it came to common sense safety. In fact it doesn't even matter of you're moving or not, just BEING on the street sitting in the back of a pick up is stupid. You can get hit by someone else anywhere NEAR the street regardless of what you're doing.

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