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Notice to Readers: National Child Passenger Safety Week, February 11--17, 2007

During 2005, a total of 1,143 motor-vehicle occupants aged <12 years died in motor-vehicle crashes (1). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and CDC recommend that children aged <13 years sit in the back seat of motor vehicles and use age-appropriate restraints. February 11--17 is National Child Passenger Safety Week, when activities are scheduled to stress the importance of age-appropriate seating for children in motor vehicles.

Studies indicate that older children are more likely than younger children to sit in a front seat of a motor vehicle (2,3). One study indicates that approximately 2.2% of children aged <3 years sit in a front seat, compared with 12.2% of children aged 4--8 years and 33.1% of children aged 9--12 years (3). Studies that have examined the effects of seating position on injury risk in motor-vehicle crashes indicate that children have an increased risk for injury when they are seated in the front, independent of restraint use (3,4). Only 10 states have laws that require children to sit in rear seats when such seats are available: California, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming (5); ages at which these laws apply vary from <1 to 11 years. On June 1, 2007, the state of Washington will become the only state that requires children aged <12 years to be seated in a rear seat when such seating is available. Delaware, North Carolina, and Vermont restrict children from being seated in the front if the child is seated in front of an airbag; age restrictions vary from <1 to 11 years (5,6). These results underscore the need to combine seating-position regulations with restraint guidelines to improve the safety of children riding in motor vehicles.

Information about National Child Passenger Safety Week activities and child passenger safety is available from NHTSA by mail, NHTSA, Office of Communications and Outreach, 400 Seventh St., SW, NTS-21, Washington, DC, 20590; fax, 202-493-2062; or online, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov; and from CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm. Additional information regarding research and evidence-based educational materials on child-passenger safety is available from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at http://www.chop.edu/carseat.

References

  1. US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; National Center for Statistics & Analysis. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) web-based encyclopedia. Available at http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov.
  2. Durbin DR, Bhatia E , Holmes JH, et al. Partners for child passenger safety: a unique child-specific crash surveillance system. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33:407--12.
  3. Durbin DR, Chen I, Smith R, Elliott MR, Winston FK. Effects of seating position and appropriate restraint use on the risk of injury to children in motor vehicle crashes. Pediatrics 2005;115:e305--9.
  4. Berg MD, Cook L, Corneli HM, Vernon DD, Dean JM. Effect of seating position and restraint use on injuries to children in motor vehicle crashes. Pediatrics 2000;105:831--5.
  5. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. Child restraint, belt laws. Available at http://www.iihs.org/laws/state_laws/restrain.html.
  6. Inventive Parent. Car seat laws. Available at http://www.inventiveparent.com/state-laws.htm.



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