Inappropriate restraint use by child occupants – injury implications and factors in inappropriate use.
Several recent studies in Australia have demonstrated that inappropriate use of restraints by child occupants is widespread, particularly in children aged 3-8. Most commonly, this takes the form of premature graduation to booster seats and adult seatbelts. This paper will give an overview of the problem, the injury implications, and the factors associated with inappropriate restraint use, using data drawn from a telephone survey of restraint use, other recent Australian studies of restraint use, and our crash investigation and child injury studies. Key factors emerging from these studies indicate that parental education level, knowledge of good restraint practices, family size, and trip type all influence the likelihood of children being appropriately restrained. Inappropriate restraint use is associated with an increased risk of serious injuries in crashes. The implications of these findings for the effectiveness of potential countermeasures such as legislation, education, restraint loans and subsidies will be discussed. Finally, other aspects of our research indicating the need for dedicated child restraint systems for larger children will be summarised and discussed in terms of proposed changes to the Australian Child Restraint Standard.