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Awarded New Investigator/Doctoral Dissertation Grant

Boost 'em in the Back Seat: A Safe Ride Program

FOA Number: CE04-046 - Grants for New Investigator Training Awards
Project Period: 8/01/04–7/31/05
Application/Grant Number: 1-R49-CE000240-01
Principal Investigator: Kelli England Will, PhD
Eastern Virginia Medical School
Center for Pediatric Research
855 W. Brambleton Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510-1001
Phone: 757-668-6449
Fax: 757-668-6495


Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children from 1 to 14 years of age. The odds of motor vehicle crash injury to children ages 4 to 7 are 59% lower when riding in belt positioning booster seats than when riding in safety belts alone, and rear seating can reduce the risk of death to child motor vehicle passengers by as much as 46%. Despite these facts, 90% of booster-age children are prematurely graduated to adult safety belts, and 30% of children are permitted to ride in the front seats of vehicles. This project will develop and evaluate an efficient process for disseminating preventive messages regarding booster seats and rear seating to large numbers of parents via partnership with community preschool and daycare programs.

Considerable research on other health topics indicates that persuasive and risk communication tactics have a greater likelihood of motivating the adoption of protective behaviors than do traditional messages. The current research expands on this premise by developing a novel 5-minute video that is framed according to such efficacious risk communication guidelines. Specifically, the video will include crash test footage, portraying the power of crash forces and evoking high emotion by means of vivid imaging. Such communication tactics are known to motivate maximum behavioral change; however, the literature indicates that this method has not yet been employed in child passenger safety programming. The effectiveness of the video-based program will be piloted at two large, representative preschool/daycare programs, using two similar control sites for comparison. The program will engage the assistance of community-based coalitions and will include incentives for participating preschool/daycare staff. As part of the evaluative process, caregivers will complete pre-post knowledge and practice surveys regarding back seat and booster seat use and pre-post risk estimations related to childhood motor vehicle hazards. In addition, researchers will observe booster seat and rear seat use in preschool parking lots before, during, and after program implementation. It is hypothesized that families exposed to the video-based program, compared with those in the control schools, will have a) increased knowledge about causes of injury and reasons for booster seat and rear seat use; b) a more realistic assessment of personal risk; and c) greater use of booster seats and rear vehicle seating when age appropriate. The long-term goal for the program, if effective, is to package it for district-wide adoption and broad-scale dissemination.