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Car Seats Save Young Lives
Date:1/21/2009

t occurred from 1996 to 2005. From a large initial sample of nearly 300,000 vehicles, the researchers chose 6,303 vehicles to study because of the availability of complete data on ages, positions of vehicle occupants and the type of restraints that were used (shoulder or lap seat belt, car seat, or none). They compared data from this group to a closely matched group of vehicles involved in nonfatal collisions.

The odds of a baby under 1 year of age dying in a car accident drop by 73 percent if the infant was riding in a baby car seat. For children between 1 and 2, the odds of dying in a collision went down by 76 percent if they were properly restrained. For 2 to 3 year olds, the odds of a fatality in a car crash dropped by about 60 percent if the toddler was in a car seat.

Safety seats were found to be most effective in preventing fatalities in rollover accidents, rural environments and accidents involving light trucks.

In the older age group -- children age 2 to 3 years old -- seat belts were almost as effective as car safety seats in preventing fatalities.

But, say the experts, that doesn't mean it's OK for a 2-year-old to just wear a seat belt.

"Any restraint device helps to keep the child inside the vehicle, which decreases fatalities," said Dr. Barbara Gaines, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "So, with the older kids, a seat belt may keep them sort of in the car, but seat belts certainly won't prevent some of the other serious injuries we see."

As Rice said, "The use of traditional seat belts for this age group is certainly not recommended, but they are far better than traveling unrestrained."

Added Gaines: "Using very robust statistical modeling, this study again proves the importance of using age-appropriate child restraints." She suggested:

  • Rear-facing infant seats for up to 1 year or so
  • Convertible seats f
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