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Today the brilliant and dedicated team from the Center for Injury Prevention and Research at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) released a new CPS Issue Report “Optimizing the Rear Seat for Children – April 2013” which highlights some of the various ways that vehicle rear seats could be optimized to protect kids too big for “add-on” child restraints. Unfortunately, tweens and young teens (who typically are out of boosters and using just the adult seatbelt) have much higher injury rates than the younger kids who can and do benefit from using a carseat or booster. I’d like to think we’ve made some good progress getting the message out about kids in the 4-8 age group needing an “add-on” CR but clearly something needs to be done to make the occupant restraint systems in the back seat more suitable for tweens and teens. Ideally, all kids should use a booster until they can pass the 5 Step Test  but that means keeping most 9, 10 and some 11 year olds in boosters. Sure, my almost 9 year still uses a booster and he will continue to do so until he passes the 5 Step Test in our vehicles but the reality is that almost none of his 3 grade classmates are still using a booster. I’m not sure why we’re failing so miserably at keeping kids in boosters until they are actually large enough to fit well in the adult seatbelt but all it takes is one quick look around your local elementary school parking lot to come to the conclusion that we are failing. Parents either aren’t getting the message or they are getting the message but ignoring it.

Anyhow, the injury rates according to 2007 data from the Partners for Child Passenger Safety study paint a very clear picture – injuries to kids in motor vehicle crashes increase with age:

4.5 injuries per 1,000 children for 0 to 3 years

7.0 for 4 to 8 years

15.5 for 9 to 12 years

20.6 for 13 to 15 years

“This is due in part to the different ways they are restrained at each age, where they sit and other crash characteristics. In addition, as children age, the vehicle’s rear seat and associated safety features may not be able to offer the optimal protection that younger occupants are provided by add-on restraints.”

I encourage everyone to actually download and read the entire report because there is a wealth of information in there on the subject that goes way beyond a simple blog or a comment shared on facebook. Back seat occupant protection seems to be the final frontier of vehicle safety and let’s be honest – there is a lot of room for improvement there!

Kristy Arbogast from CHOP has a wonderful blog “Putting the Rear Seat First” on the subject here:  http://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/putting-rear-seat-first?utm_source=Child+Passenger+Safety&utm_campaign=5262666229-CPS_Issue_Report_Rear_Seat4_26_2013&utm_medium=email#.UX6H5rWsiSo