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AAA Study: More Parents Heeding Child Seat Guidelines

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AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety logoAn AAA survey shows that 90% of parents are familiar with the child safety seat guidelines that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) updated one year ago. The guidelines, also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggested that children younger than three be placed in rear-facing car seats until they have reached height and weight limits, and that older kids be seated in booster seats until they are as old as 12, according to an article by Jennifer Newman appearing in the Chicago Tribune’s blog Cars.

Newman writes:

Despite some parental grumbling and initial confusion about the guidelines, more than a third of the parents surveyed changed how their children ride in a car to comply with the updated recommendations, according to the survey.

‘Parents are getting the message that moving a child to the next step prematurely is actually a downgrade in safety,’ Jill Ingrassia, AAA’s managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy, said in a statement. ‘Children should remain in their car or booster seat until they outgrow it.’

The study shows that once parents and caregivers of children learn the importance of booster seats for safety, and how easy they are to use, they are 43% more likely to put their children in them, according to an AAA press release. And when booster seats are given to people for free, along with information on how effective they are and how to use them, caregivers and parents are twice as likely to use them, AAA reports.

As Newman writes, not all parents are complying with the guidelines, saying their child would not sit facing the rear of the car, or had already graduated to a forward-facing position, according to the survey. And some parents did not believe the recommendations were necessary.

“Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children and booster seats save lives when properly used in conjunction with lap and shoulder belts,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, many children are put at risk when they are improperly restrained by a seat belt intended for an adult or older child and the booster seat phase is skipped.”

The AAA foundation says that every year, more than 400 children between the ages of four and eight are killed in car accidents, and another 70,000 are injured. When child booster seats are properly used with lap and shoulder belts, they can reduce serious injury by 60%. The Foundation initiated the study to find which approach would be most effective in encouraging parents and caregivers to put children in the booster seats:

The Foundation commissioned researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to undertake a systematic review of studies that had evaluated interventions aimed at increasing booster seat use. This first-of-its-kind Cochrane Review study led by Dr. John Ehiri, Associate Professor in the UAB School of Public Health, confirmed that three approaches work best: 1) education, 2) education in conjunction with giveaway programs and 3) education with incentive programs, such as a discount coupon to purchase a booster seat.

AAA says it is crucial to pass booster seat legislation and connect it with educational and outreach components such as car seat clinics.

‘Parents often look to state laws for guidance in traffic safety issues,’ said Susan Pikrallidas, vice president, AAA Public Affairs. ‘Since the launch of our child passenger safety initiative in 2002, AAA has led the effort to pass booster seat laws in 34 states and D.C., however; only sixteen of those states include an educational component in their law.’

AAA announced last month that it planned to distribute 75,000 coupons from Babies “R” Us offering a $10 discount for any booster seat selling for more than $40. The coupons are available at most AAA club offices and are valid through April at any Babies “R” Us store.

Image by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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