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NHTSA Child Seat Safety Issue

Not Enough Children Placed in Booster Seats

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released results of a major survey showing that relatively few children who should be riding in booster seats are doing so. The findings come in conjunction with the launch of a new national education campaign today to increase booster seat use.

The nationwide telephone survey indicates that just 21 percent of children age four to eight are "at least on occasion" riding in a booster seat while traveling in a passenger vehicle. Another 19 percent of children in this age range were restrained "at least on occasion" in a front-facing child safety seat.

"This survey supports what our crash statistics imply, that children are at unnecessary risk of being injured in crashes because they are either in the wrong restraint for their size, or worse, totally unrestrained," Dr. Runge said. "Children are not only safer, but more comfortable in a safety belt that fits, and that's what a booster seat provides."

Results of the latest survey, which cover a variety of traffic safety issues involving children, were released today by NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., at a news conference in the Houston suburb of Pasadena. The event marked the launch of a new national campaign to increase booster seat use, called "Boost for Life," which is being led by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

Children who have outgrown their child safety seat should ride in a booster seat until they are at least eight years old or 4 feet, 9 inches tall, according to NHTSA. Children placed in poorly fitting adult safety belts can suffer serious life-threatening injuries, or risk being ejected from a vehicle altogether in the event of a crash.

NHTSA's new research findings on child passenger safety are drawn from a national survey conducted by the agency on a biannual basis to monitor the public's attitudes, knowledge, and self-reported behavior regarding safety belts, air bags, crash injury experience, and emergency medical services. In addition to its findings on booster seat use, the new survey results provide an array of information on other child passenger safety issues.
Findings of the newly released survey were derived from two telephone questionnaires, each administered to a randomly selected sample of about 6,000 persons age 16 and older. The interviewing was conducted between January and March of 2003.
According to the survey, 85 percent of the parents and caregivers of young children had heard of booster seats. Among those who were aware of booster seats, 60 percent said they had used them "at some time" with their children.

Dr. Runge lauded the National Automobile Dealers Association for leading the new "Boost for Life" campaign. The campaign, to begin in October with the support of NHTSA, will involve public awareness efforts by dealerships throughout the country. Dealers will conduct child safety seat inspection programs for the public and will distribute at least 5,000 NHTSA brochures to promote booster seat use. NADA represents about 20,000 franchised new car and truck dealers.

"Education is one of our most effective tools for ensuring the safety of children in motor vehicles," Dr. Runge said.
The new research report can be viewed on the NHTSA website at:

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