Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children over three-years-old in the U.S., yet few parents are using the restraints recommended for their children's age group, a new study has found.
Within each age group, black and Hispanic children were less likely to use age appropriate restraints compared to white children, according to research published in the September issue of American Journal of Preventive medicine.
Three years of data was collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as drivers with child passengers arrived at community sites including gas stations, fast food restaurants and child-care centers.
As children got older, a decline in child safety seat use was found, especially among minority children.
The new Guidelines for Child Passenger Safety issued 2011 suggests that children use rear-facing car seats at least until the age of two, forward-facing car seats until the child is the maximum weight and height suggested by the manufacturer, booster seats until an adult seat belt fits properly, on average, at 11-years-old, and riding in the back seat until age 13, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Minority children ages 0-3 had the lowest use of rear-facing car seats, and among whites, only 17 percent used rear-facing seats.
"We found that few children remain rear-facing after age 1, fewer than 2 percent use a booster seat after age 7, many over age six sit in the front seat," says Michelle L. Macy, MD, MS, co-author of the study.
While racial disparities were found, very few children in general were using age-appropriate restraints, the study found.
"Our findings demonstrate that not all children have been reached equally by community-based public education campaigns and the passage of child safety seat laws in 48 states. Further development and dissemination of culturally specific programs that have demonstrated success in promoting restraint use among minority children are necessary. Further, the findings may also help in developing strategies to lower the racial and ethnic disparities seen in children experiencing crash-related injuries," Macy said.
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