Legislating child restraint usage -Its effect on self-reported child restraint use rates in a central city

The objective of this paper is to assess the effect of the newly enacted child passenger safety law, Wisconsin Act 106, on self-report of proper restraint usage of children in Milwaukee's central city population. A prospective, non-randomized study design was used. The settings used were (a) a pediatric urban health center, and (b) two Women, Infants and Children offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Participants included 11,566 surveys collected over 18 months that spanned the pre-legislation and post-legislation time periods from February 2006 through August 2008. The study set out to assess appropriate child passenger restraint. The results showed that the changes in adjusted proper restraint usage rates for infants between the pre-law, grace period, and post-fine periods were 94%, 94%, and 94% respectively. For children 1-3 years old, the adjusted proper usage rates were 65%, 63%, and 59%, respectively. And for children 4-7 years old, the rates were 43%, 44% and 42%, respectively. There was a significant increase in premature booster seat use in children who should have been restrained in a rear- or forward-facing car seat (10% pre-law, 12% grace period, 20% post-fine; p < 0.0005). There was no statistically significant change over time in unrestrained children (2.1%, 1.7%, 1.7%, p = 0.7, respectively). The passage of a strengthened child passenger safety law with fines did not significantly improve appropriate restraint use for 0-7 year olds, and appropriate use in 1-7 year olds remained suboptimal with a majority of urban children inappropriately restrained. Although the number of unrestrained children decreased, we identified an unintended consequence of the legislation - a significant increase in the rate of premature belt-positioning booster seat use among poor, urban children.The design of child restraint systems maximizes protection of the child. Increasing reports of misuse is a call to those who manufacture these child passenger restraints to improve advertising and marketing to the correct age group, ease of installation, and mechanisms to prevent incorrect safety strap and harness placement. To ensure accurate and consistent use on every trip, car seat manufacturers must ensure that best practice recommendations for use as well as age, weight, and height be clearly specified on each child restraint. The authors support the United States Department of Transportation's new consumer program that will assist caregivers in identifying the child seat that will fit in their vehicle. In addition, due to the increase in premature graduation of children into belt-positioning booster seats noted as a result of legislation, promoting and marketing booster seat use for children less than 40 pounds should not be accepted. Child passenger safety technicians must continue to promote best practice recommendations for child passenger restraint use and encourage other community leaders to do the same.


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  • Accession Number: 01155632
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 22 2010 9:28AM