Today's News

Thursday, March 1, 2001

Misuse of seat belts for young still a problem

Trauma related to motor vehicle collisions remains the leading cause of death and injury to children in North America. Young children, by virtue of their developing anatomy, require special consideration in terms of their effective restraint in motor vehicles.

Despite considerable effort in developing stringent regulations, designing and testing appropriate automotive systems and advising vehicle users of the proper use of child restraints, seat belts and supplementary airbag systems, investigators in scientific exhibit 47 say nonuse or misuse of occupant restraints remains a considerable problem.

They are concerned about lap belt injuries in children. Many older model cars have only lap belts in the back seat where children usually ride. Even in 1999 model year cars, a lap belt in the center rear seating position is more common than a lap and torso seat belt system.

Provision of three-point restraints in the rear would prevent severe lumbar spine and abdominal injuries, the investigators say.

The other principal injury mechanism is airbag deployment with a child in the zone of inflation or nearby. The investigators say many children still are being injured in the front seating position by deployment of an airbag. Although significant efforts are underway to educate the public to keep children away from seats where airbags might deploy, these efforts should clearly convey that children of all ages are at risk from airbags until they have attained adult body habitus.

Because the smaller child is often less well restrained in the adult's three point belt, the smaller child is more likely to be further forward and in the zone of deployment when the airbag inflates.

The investigators are Mervyn Letts, MD, Childrens Hospital/Eastern Ontario; Alan German, PhD, Transport Canada; Andrew Howard, MD, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada; and W.T. Garner, Transport Canada, Ontario, Canada.

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Last modified 20/February/2001 by IS