YALE (US) — Children can unbuckle their own car seat by age 3, putting themselves at a 3.5-fold increased risk for serious injury.
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 4- to 8-year-olds.
“We found that young children might acquire the motor skills to unbuckle from restraints before developing the cognitive ability to understand the necessity of automotive restraints,” says Lilia Reyes, clinical fellow of pediatrics at Yale University.
“This pilot study elucidates a potential safety hazard in child motor vehicle restraint that needs to be addressed.”
For the study, 100 surveys were distributed at five urban and suburban pediatric offices to parents with children less than six years of age. The survey collected information about the age and gender of children in the household and current safety seat use. Parents were asked at what age their children first unbuckled themselves from their safety restraints and whether the car was in motion or at a full stop.
The survey showed that 75 percent of children who unbuckle themselves were 3 and younger, with an age range of 12 months to 6 1/2 years. Unbuckling was more common in boys than girls. Of the children who unbuckled, 43 percent did so while the car was in motion and 29 percent were in a five-point restraint. The majority of parents stopped the car and reprimanded and rebuckled their child.
Further research should include a larger prospective study to assess which restraint device would be safest, Reyes says. “Perhaps passive safety locks on the seatbelt can be developed as a potential option for intervention. Keeping precious cargo safe is our duty.”
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