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Incorrect use of child safety seats

Media Release

Incorrect use of child safety seats leaves children at risk

Parents are doing the right thing by buckling in their kids, however a recent study shows that not all those children in safety restraints are as safe as their parents like to think.

The findings were based on a survey conducted on more than 1000 Wellington parents, who drive with children under the age of eight. It aimed to find out how they used safety seats and restraints.

The survey was conducted by Jean Simpson, from the Injury Prevention Research Unit of Otago University. She will be discussing the findings at the Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa New Zealand (IPNANZ) Weaving the Strands 2003 Conference in Wellington this week.

Jean Simpson says most of the results were expected from the experiences seen overseas, but there were some surprises. Most parents recognised the importance of using a safety seat or restraint, however not all were using them correctly.

“About 85 percent of parents thought that it was easy to install a safety seat and buckle their child into it, yet two thirds of them made at least one error. A quarter of them made an error that could have major injury consequences for their child if they were involved in a crash.

“We haven’t got 100% compliance in New Zealand, but it is great news that more New Zealand parents than ever before are strapping their children into safety seats. But we need to do it correctly. We need the safety seats to be easy to use so we can be confident that the children are safe.”

She says the problems were often related to installing the safety seats and restraints in the vehicle properly. Common mistakes included failing to thread seatbelts correctly through safety seats, having seat belts that were too loose and not having the tether straps in place.

Jean Simpson says recent research from the United States suggests that if used correctly, child car restraints could save the lives of between 54 and 71 percent of children involved in serious car accidents.

One recent American study showed that unrestrained children had the highest incidence of head injury, and it is suggested that some improperly restrained children might be suffering from some specific injuries, such as abdominal injuries, she says.

he highest incidence of head injury, and it suggested that improperly restrained children The Wellington study showed that some children were in seats that weren’t suitable for their age, she says. This included children who were in booster seats, but would have been much safer in a child safety seat that used its own harness. Guidelines are available with recommendations for the suitable sized seat for children.

Jean Simpson says most parents do want to keep their children safe, but car seats and interior car designs are not always user-friendly when it comes to installing child safety seats.

She is calling on improved design of cars and restraints to help keep children safe.

“I would really like to stress that we need more work on the design of cars and restraints so that it is easy to keep children safe.

“We need to put more thought into making practical designs so that a busy parent can quickly and easily install enough safety seats for all the child passengers and know the children are as safe as they can possibly be.”


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