A new study has found that most American children are either improperly restrained in child car seats, or they are allowed to sit in the front seat, in defiance of government car safety recommendations. MSNBC.com has more:
The difficulty people have in adhering to car safety regulations may show how dramatically they’ve changed in recent years, said the study’s author, Dr. Michelle Macy, of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “For parents, it’s not anything they would have done as kids,” she said.
In the U.S., car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over age 3, however, and more than 140,000 children go to emergency rooms each year as a result of accidents. Properly seating a child in a car seat or booster seat, and in the back seat, reduces the risk of injury or death, but many parents don’t follow the guidelines, the researchers said.
Three types of devices designed to alert parents if they have left their babies strapped into car seats are not reliable, a new government report has found. The Washington Post reports on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s findings:
The performance of the devices — one that relies on a chest buckle sensor and two that use seat pads — is too inconsistent, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
“These sense the presence of a child; they just don’t do it reliably enough,” said Kristy B. Arbogast, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who tested the devices for the federal agency.
“While these devices are very well intended and we do appreciate the manufacturers and inventors, we have found a number of limitations in these devices,” NHTSA Administrator David L. Strickland said. “We don’t think they can be used as the only countermeasure to make sure that you don’t forget your child behind in a car.”
The three devices are the Suddenly Safe Pressure Pad, the ChildMinder Smart Clip System and the ChildMinder Smart Pad. There was no immediate response from the three manufacturers.
The NHTSA report said that, in some cases, spilled liquids caused malfunctions, cellphone use interfered with device signals, devices turned off and on during travel and an improperly positioned child caused seat pads to malfunction.
“In sum, the devices require considerable effort from the parent/caregiver to ensure smooth operation,” the report said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced it is changing the rules regarding how child car seats are attached to cars, affecting mostly older toddlers and children over age 3. The system known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), which has become standard in many cars and which makes car seats easier to install, cannot be guaranteed to be safe if the car seat and child’s combined weight exceeds 65 pounds. USA Today has more:
Joseph Colella, one of five child-safety advocates who petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to change the rule, says the anchor requirements are based on old child seats and outdated recommendations on how long kids should be in child seats.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sought the change in the rule because limits weren’t factoring in how much seats weigh. Colella says carmakers aren’t able to guarantee the safety of heavier kids given the strength of LATCH anchors. The alliance was not available for comment.
The advocates say the minimum strength requirements should be increased.
LATCH use and awareness are already low. A study last summer by the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide found child-seat checkpoint technicians were using the lower anchors to attach seats only about 30% of the time. And Safe Kids found just 30% of parents use the top tether straps, which prevent head injuries in crashes.
“Disconnecting tethers when their use is needed … could lead to a tragedy,” says Stephanie Tombrello of advocacy group SafetyBeltSafe, one of the petitioners.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children use car seats until age 8 has apparently led to manufacturers making different, sometimes heavier seats.
A vast majority of parents follow the recommended rules about safety seats, including booster seats for children who have outgrown car seats, but in carpool situations, many provide rides to kids without providing them with booster seats, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found.
The research, conducted by the University of Michigan, found more than 30% of parents do not enforce the rule of booster seats when their kids are with another driver. Investigators also found 45% of parents do not require their little ones to use a booster when they’re driving other children who don’t have booster seats.
“The majority of parents reported that their children between the ages of four and eight use a safety seat when riding in the family car,” says Dr. Michelle Macy, a clinical lecturer of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a pediatrician at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “However, it’s alarming to know that close to 70% of parents carpool, and when they do, they’re often failing to use life-saving booster seats.”
Researchers believe car overcrowding and lack of time to coordinate booster seat switch offs are to blame for the lack of safety for kids in carpooling situations. Some parents seem to look the other way. But it’s against the law, and many don’t understand that.
More than half of the 2011 models of popular car seats contain toxic flame retardants and chemical additives, a study conducted by the non-profit Ecology Center and released on HealthyStuff.org has found. The study examined more than 150 examples of car seats purchased at a retail store in Michigan. Around 60 percent of the seats tested positive for brominated flame retardant chemicals, PVC, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. HealthyStuff.org says those chemicals have either not been sufficiently tested, or are associated with health issues including reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances, and cancer.
Similar studies had been performed in 2008 and 2009, and though the new findings sound alarming, they are actually improvements–an average of 64 percent less chemical toxicity–over the past 3 years.
“There’s been a not-so-quiet consumer revolution around chemical hazards in consumer products. The smart and strategic companies are quickly moving to make healthier products, and I think are going to have competitive advantage doing that,” Jeff Gearheart, research director for Healthystuff.org, told CNN.com.
*UPDATED: The image that was originally published in this post has been replaced after several PNN readers correctly pointed out that it depicted a young baby riding in a forward-facing car seat, which is not recommended.