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Incorrect use of car seats risks children’s lives

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29 August 2013

Four out of five children are incorrectly buckled into car restraining seats.
Four out of five children are incorrectly buckled into car restraining seats. Image source: iStock

The Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) is leading an international research project to explore children’s behaviour while travelling in car seats and the way this affects their safety.

Car seats, or child restraint systems (CRS), are designed to provide specialised protection for children in the event of a crash. However, their effectiveness depends on correct fitting of the child restraint in the vehicle, correct harnessing of the child and use of an appropriate restraint for the child’s size.

Associate Professor Jude Charlton, Dr Sjaan Koppel and the MUARC team recently conducted a research project which demonstrated that CRS misuse and inappropriate use is widespread.

A study of 12 families found that in 100 per cent of trips the child was out-of-position (OOP) at least once in a way that could increase their injury risk in a crash. Additionally, the study found children were OOP more than 70 per cent of the journey time.

MUARC is now conducting a much larger study including a national online survey with parents and a large-scale observational study using instrumented vehicles to study the behaviour of children in cars and how this might affect the protection offered by their CRS.

The study will also examine children’s interactions with parents and drivers during the car trips, and how this may influence the drivers’ performance and attention to the roadway.

Dr Sjaan Koppel said car crashes are a leading cause of child death and injury in Australia.

“While CRS offer good protection, their benefits are significantly diminished if used incorrectly,” Dr Koppel said.

“This study will examine how often children are OOP during car trips and the injury implications of this OOP. Outcomes of our research will reduce injury through improved engineering and education solutions.”

The MUARC team are seeking volunteers for the study.

“We invite all Australian parents who have at least one child between 1 and 8 years of age, who usually travel in a forward-facing child restraint or booster seat to become involved in this exciting research by completing the online survey,” Dr Koppel said.

“Eligible participants who complete the online survey will then be invited to participate in an observational driving study.”

For more information or to volunteer, please complete the survey online or contact the researchers at MUARC on +61 3 9902 0452 or +61 3 9905 1808.