Use of child safety seats in metropolitan areas of Virginia during Summer 1996.

Use of child safety seats in metropolitan areas of Virginia during Summer 1996.

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    Technical assistance report.
  • Abstract:
    The Transportation Safety Services of the Department of Motor Vehicles has, for a number of years, requested observational surveys of child safety seat use in the Commonwealth. The present survey was conducted in the summer of 1996 in the four metropolitan areas of the state where 54% of Virginia's population resides. The data were categorized as correct use, incorrect use, and no use for children judged by the survey team to be under age 4, that is, those required to be in a child safety seat under state law. Correct use was higher (57.7%) in the rear seats than in the front seats (44.4%). For the entire car, 55.0% of the children observed were in a correctly used child seat, 36.5% were not in a child seat, and 8.5% were in a seat that was obviously misused. The rate of correct use was probably overestimated because, with an in-traffic survey, the lap/shoulder belts holding the child seat in place cannot be checked for proper tension; a factor identified by other researchers as resulting in a high rate of incorrect use. The data also showed variations in the patterns of use in the four areas of the state surveyed. When the 1996 data were compared with those for 1993 and 1994, correct use (55.0%) was greater than that in 1993 (48.9%) but less than that in 1994 (64.0%). Incorrect use in 1996 (8.5%) was lower than that in 1993 (17.5%) and 1994 (10.4%). Non-use in 1996 (36.5%) was greater than that in 1993 (33.6%) and 1994 (25.7%). The 1996 data also show that non-use was greater in the Richmond (42.9%) and Roanoke (41.7%) areas. While non-use was lowest in Northern Virginia, nearly one-third of child occupants under 4 years old were not in a child safety seat. The data also show that child occupants of the front seats of cars have much higher incorrect and non-use rates than child occupants of the rear seats. It is recommended that the high rates of non-use and misuse be addressed through (1) programs that identify the problems and (2) increased education and enforcement on the part of the state and its localities. In addition, because the population of persons under age 4 is constantly changing (i.e., infants are born and others turn 4 and move out of the group), ongoing public information campaign are required.
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