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Lap Seat Belt Use In Children Dangerous

9 February 2006

Lap Seat Belt Use In Children Dangerous - New Study Finds

The use of lap seat belts can result in a range of life-threatening injuries or permanent disability in children, a new study has found.

The study, by Dr Michael Shepherd (fellow in Paediatric Emergency medicine at Starship Children's Hospital - now at the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane, and the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit), Dr James Hamill (from the Department of Surgery at Starship Children's Hospital), and Dr Elizabeth Segedin (Paediatric Intensivist at Starship Children's Hospital), is published in the latest issue of Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

The researchers conducted a retrospective review of admissions to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, from 1996 to 2003, with significant injury following involvement in a motor vehicle crash while wearing a lap-belt.

Nineteen patients were identified over the seven-year period.

Injuries were to the abdominal wall and bowel (eleven requiring surgery), spine (including two resulting in paraplegia), and pelvic fractures.

There was one death.

Almost 60% of them were aged less than eight years and, with lap-belts, were inappropriately restrained.

That seat belts save lives and reduce serious injury has been well demonstrated over many years, the researchers said.

"It is likely that many patients in this series would have sustained more serious injuries if not restrained at all," they said.

"However, three-point lap and shoulder belts, child seats, and booster seats have an even greater ability to reduce serious injury or death than the two-point lap-belt."

They said age-appropriate restraint is essential.

"We support recommendations for the introduction of legislation to ensure two-point lap belts are rapidly phased out.

"Similarly, legislation should require children who weigh less than 35 kg or whose height is less than 145 cm, usually around age 8 to 12 years, to travel in a belt-positioning booster seat

"The introduction of such legislation needs to be supported by an education programme, further enforcement of current seat-belt laws, and initiatives to make child restraints and booster seats more easily accessible to the public."

ENDS

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