Just 40% of children ages 4 to 8 ride in car safety seats or booster seats at least occasionally, a new survey has found, meaning that most children risk being thrown from the car in the case of an accident. The study shows that many people who drive with children do not have booster seats and feel the risk is acceptable because they are making only short trips.
“Emergency physicians cringe when we see a child riding unrestrained in a vehicle because we know if it crashes, the child will be hurled like a missile,” wrote Dr. Herbert Garrison of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., in a commentary on the survey. “The result for the child may be severe injury or death.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration interviewed 6,000 randomly chosen people older than 16 in 2003, asking questions about safety belts, child safety seats, air-bag crash injuries and other issues. The survey will be published in the February issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine.
State laws vary on children and safety seats, but children up to about 40 pounds should ride in such seats. After that, experts recommend booster seats to make sure smaller children fit properly into safety belts. California law says children must use a safety seat until they are at least 6 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.
Some parents who occasionally used a booster seat said their child was only in the vehicle a short time. Others surveyed said no seat was available or the child didn’t like the seat. Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of childhood death in the U.S.