May 1, 2011

It’s the law in Oregon: Child passengers in motor vehicles must be in an appropriate restraint system. Child safety seats are mandatory for children weighing less than 40 pounds; children under 12 months and children who weigh less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing child safety seat. In spite of this, national research shows that drivers still fail to use a car seat or use it incorrectly.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, one third of the children who were injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents during 2010 were using restraint systems, but not child restraint systems. Rather, they were buckled into the adult system. An appropriate car seat could have minimized their injuries or kept them safe from harm.

A recent survey identified another problem that has nothing to do with the driver. Kids are able to unbuckle their car seat restraints themselves. Some of the children were as young as 12 months.

The survey found that children under age 3 were the most likely to unbuckle their harness. They also found that boys were more likely than girls to unbuckle.

If the car isn’t moving, the danger is minor. Nearly half — 48 percent — of respondents said that their kids unbuckled while the car was moving. The danger to the child increases dramatically.

Five-point restraint systems accounted for 29 percent of the car seats in the survey. These systems have two buckles: the chest buckle that secures the harness, and the lower buckle, that actually provides the most protection. Children in the study were more likely to unbuckle the chest clip.

Consumer Reports says that the chest clip is not as critical to safety as the lower belt. The chest clip helps the child stay in the right position and holds the shoulder straps in the right position.

The lower belt and its buckle keep the child in the seat. They restrain the child in an accident. If the lower buckle is not buckled or is buckled incorrectly, the child is more likely to be injured.

We’ll continue this discussion in our next post.

Source:, “Little Houdinis: Study finds young kids can free themselves from car seat restraints,” Liza Barth and Jennifer Stockburger, 05/03/2011


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