Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats vs Seat Belts in Reducing Risk for Death in Children in Passenger Vehicle Crashes | Pediatrics | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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Article
June 2006

Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats vs Seat Belts in Reducing Risk for Death in Children in Passenger Vehicle Crashes

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Dr Elliott); Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Mr Kallan and Dr Durbin) and Divisions of Pediatric Emergency Medicine (Dr Durbin) and General Pediatrics (Dr Winston), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania, (Dr Winston), Philadelphia; and TraumaLink Injury Research Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (Drs Durbin and Winston).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(6):617-621. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.6.617
Abstract

Objective  To provide an estimate of benefit, if any, of child restraint systems over seat belts alone for children aged from 2 through 6 years.

Design  Cohort study.

Setting  A sample of children in US passenger vehicle crashes was obtained from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration by combining cases involving a fatality from the US Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System with a probability sample of cases without a fatality from the National Automotive Sampling System.

Participants  Children in two-way crashes occurring between 1998 and 2003.

Main Exposure  Use of child restraint systems (rear-facing and forward-facing car seats, and shield and belt-positioning booster seats) vs seat belts. Potentially confounding variables included seating position, vehicle type, model year, driver and passenger ages, and driver survival status.

Main Outcomes Measure  Death of child passengers from injuries incurred during the crash.

Results  Compared with seat belts, child restraints, when not seriously misused (eg, unattached restraint, child restraint system harness not used, 2 children restrained with 1 seat belt) were associated with a 28% reduction in risk for death (relative risk, 0.72; 95% confidence interval, 0.54-0.97) in children aged 2 through 6 years after adjusting for seating position, vehicle type, model year, driver and passenger ages, and driver survival status. When including cases of serious misuse, the effectiveness estimate was slightly lower (21%) (relative risk, 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.59-1.05).

Conclusion  Based on these findings as well as previous epidemiological and biomechanical evidence for child restraint system effectiveness in reducing nonfatal injury risk, efforts should continue to promote use of child restraint systems through improved laws and with education and disbursement programs.

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