Parents appear to be less vigilant about using booster seats to ensure that each child is properly protected by a seat belt when children are driven in a car pool and more rigorous about booster seat use when the parents chauffeur only their own children in the family car. This finding, by researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the University of Colorado in Denver, appears online today in Pediatrics.
The researchers conducted a survey and got a response rate of 71% from the 2266 parents invited to participate. The research findings are based on responses from the 681 participating parents who qualified as carpoolers with 4- to 8-year-old children. They found that 76% of parents reported their child used a booster seat when riding in the family car. However, among parents who carpool and whose children are routinely secured in the family car in a child booster seat, about 1 in 5 were reluctant to always ask another driver to use a booster seat for their child. Also, almost half of the parents reported that they did not always have their child use a booster seat in the family car when they were also driving other children who did not have boosters.
The researchers also asked the parents about a hypothetical scenario in which the number of children they needed to transport in a car pool exceeded the number of seat belts in the backseats. Most parents (72%) said they would not transport all the children or they would call for help from another parent. But 1 in 5 parents said they would have the biggest child sit in the front, and almost 10% said they would buckle 2 children in 1 belt, have children sit in a cargo area, or have them sit on the laps of other passengers.
Parents should be counseled, the researchers noted, that booster seats substantially reduce the risk of severe injury in motor vehicle collisions and that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children use a booster seat after they outgrow their forward-facing car seat until they reach 57 inches in height.
There is also some legal muscle promoting booster seat use: booster seat laws have been enacted in 47 states, the researchers noted.