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The Dangers of Misusing Child Restraint Systems | ClypX

In our previous post, we mentioned how common it is for child restraint systems like booster seats is to be misused. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study published in  2015, researchers surveyed 4,167 families who used car seats and booster seats for children up to 8 years old in their vehicles. According to the study, more than 46% of families were found to have “misused” these child restraint systems by either installing them improperly or failing to adequately restrain the child in the seat or booster. In this study, “misuse” meant at least one misuse that alters safety of the restraint system in a way that it may contribute to injury or even death. Some other sources like the 2014 Technical Guide for National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program sounds even more alarmingly, they cite misuse as high as 72% to 90% for all child restraint systems, but we believe it is a count of every single misuse per car seat or booster.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these shocking statistics to find out how and why these child restraint systems are being misused. We will focus on kids 4 years and older that usually are seated in booster seats. As advocates for child passenger safety, ClypX isn’t just focused on providing innovative child restraint systems (CRS), but is also dedicated to providing parents and caregivers with the kind of information they need to make a good decisions and keep their children safer while riding in the car.

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How Long Should Children Ride In a Booster Seat?

For children under the age of 13, car accidents are the leading cause of death. In an effort to reduce death rates of children due to car accidents, the NHTSA advises that young kids remain in the back seat and in the proper restraint systems until they are 12 years old or until they reach 57 inches tall, whichever comes first.

There’s no doubt that car seats and booster seats help to keep children safer while traveling in the car. To achieve optimum safety, it is extremely important to use the appropriate restraint system determined by the age and size of the child. By recognizing the following recommendations, and by properly using the appropriate child restraint systems, drivers can significantly reduce their child’s risk of injury or death in the event of a car crash.

How Booster Seats Are Misused

In a study released by the NHTSA, the term “misuse” refers to multiple different characteristics, including not properly installing a booster seat in the car and not buckling the child into a booster seat in the right way. Misuse can also refer to drivers who don’t use the right restraining system for the size and age of their child.

As a result of these various misuses, the booster seat may not be as safe for the child as it could be and could also put the child at a greater risk of injury or death if a car crash occurs.

Data show for children in booster seats, in particular, the danger for injuries is much greater, making it even more important to avoid installation or restraining errors. Some of the most common types of misuse for booster seats intended for kids ages 4 and older include:

  • Putting the lap belt above or across an armrest or guiding loops
  • Having the shoulder belt incorrectly positioned and/or not passing through the guiding loops
  • Having a twisted shoulder and/or lap belt
  • Having excessive slack in a lap and/or shoulder belt.

While misuse is most common during the installation process and while restraining the child in a booster seat, there are also several other ways that these child safety restraints can be misused.

Misuse can also occur during transportation. For example, the lap belt—if worn by itself without the chest belt—can cause serious injury to children in a car accident. CBS News explains, “a lap seat belt allows a child to jackknife over the belt.”

Similarly, misuse issues can occur during long car rides when or if the child gets tired of sitting on the hard surface of the booster seat and alters the lap or shoulder straps in an attempt to change positions. A child may feel the constant pressure from the lap belt on their hips and seek to relieve that pressure. Or they might loosen the belt across their chest in order to reach for something. The danger is, if a child never puts the lap belt or chest belt back where it is supposed to go after wiggling around, this can result in serious injury or death in the event of an accident.

Misuse Findings from Swedish Research

In 2008, researchers at a Science Park in Sweden conducted an observational study of children’s performance while they personally buckled into their booster seats. Test subjects were children between the ages of 4 and 12, and all of them had prior experience using seat belts to buckle into their booster seat.

Even though 4 to 6-year-olds typically require assistance when buckling in, researchers included them in the experiment in order to observe how the difference in booster seat design impacted misuse by first-time users. Each child was tested while using two different concepts of boosters: an integrated booster cushion (IBC), without guides or armrests, and an aftermarket booster cushion (BC) that featured seatbelt guides and armrests. Additionally, after testing both boosters, test subjects over the age of eight were tested and observed using only a seatbelt and no booster.

While the study found that just 4% of kids misused IBCs, an eye-opening 77% of children either minorly or severely misused the BC. The results of the Swedish study are significantly higher than an on-road observational study conducted by the NHTSA, which found that just 24% of children misused their booster. The reason there is such a discrepancy between these two percentages can possibly be explained by the fact that in the Swedish study, children were buckling themselves with no adults present to correct belt routing. In the NHTSA study, kids were only up to eight years old. This would lead us to believe that the children most likely would have been buckled by the caregiver and not by themselves.

Regardless if a parent provides assistance when buckling, the findings of both studies indicate just how common booster seats’ armrests and lap belt guides are misused and show the serious safety concerns they present. This highlights the need for safer and more user-friendly alternatives.

Solutions for Child Restraint System Misuse

Generally speaking, car seats and booster seats are still a relatively new concept in the automobile industry. Their initial purpose in the 1930’s wasn’t necessary to keep children safe but more to keep them contained while the vehicle was moving so they wouldn’t distract the driver. And while people finally began taking child car seat safety seriously in the early 1960s, it wasn’t until 1979 that Tennessee became the first state with child restraint laws.

Today, most states have strict laws regarding child safety in automobiles. Regulations and requirements are also being routinely increased in hopes of better protecting children on the nation’s roads. V1. While introducing new laws and requirements, launching informational campaigns, and increasing parent education has undoubtedly increased the use of all child restraint systems including boosters, they didn’t change much misuse of child restraint systems itself as it stays almost the same for decades.

V2. New laws, as well as informational campaigns and parent’s education, have undoubtedly increased use of all child restraint systems including boosters, however, misuse of them haven’t changed much for years and stays almost the same for decades.

At ClypX, we believe the best solution for child safety doesn’t just lie in things like educational campaigns, but can also be achieved by introducing alternative restraint systems that are more intuitive, user-friendly, comfortable, and effective for both drivers and children riders.

Alternatives to Child Booster Seats

Parents or caregivers should help buckle up children under the age of six to ensure maximum safety. However, once the child reaches six years old, parents should introduce proper buckling techniques and encourage their children to use seat belts correctly. It is important to make this habit early, so kids know the importance of seat belts as they grow up. It’s also important for parents to use the right type of restraint system for the size and age of their child.

Take a look at virtually any booster seat design in the USA and you’ll notice a set of guiding loops which are supposed to help guide the lap belt over the child’s thigh and away from their abdomen. In addition to these guiding loops, which are the cause of frequent misuse, incorrect (and in some cases, even correct) lap and shoulder belt routing systems also contribute to excessive slack in the seat belt or in wrong placement altogether.

In late 2012, several Scandinavian and some European booster seat manufacturers eliminated lap belt guides and armrests entirely and discontinued older models that had these features. There have also been a few models without the lap belt guides pop up here in the United States. This is a great step forward and the future looks encouraging. By doing so, both children and parents were able to significantly reduce the risks that come with common booster seat misuse. It is important to mention that eliminating lap belt guides includes other benefits beside misuse. We will discuss these benefits in our future posts.

ClypX recognized the benefits of these new and improved designs and set out to create a simple, safe replacement for child booster car seats. Our child restraint system follows NHTSA safety guidelines, uses the car’s existing safety belts, and can be fit to any car with lap and shoulder seat belts (except inflatable seat belts). Not only is this new system quick and easy to use, but the crash tests that we conducted in many institutes in different countries, as well as high user approval ratings, show ClypX belt positioning device is an enormous safety improvement over booster seats. This high approval from older children as well as parents makes this device so convenient that it helps parents keep their kids properly restrained for longer, preferably until the moment they can be safely restrained by traditional seat belts. This typically happens around 12 years of age or at a height of 57 inches.

By incorporating the ClypX child restraint system in your vehicle, you can ensure your child is safer on the road. And as a bonus, you will no longer have to worry about lugging around a bulky booster seat or misusing your child’s booster. With ClypX, installation and use are as easy as 1-2-3. Start using ClypX today!

REFERENCES

Andersson M, Bohman K, Osvalder AL. Effect of Booster Seat Design on Children’s Choice of Seating Positions During Naturalistic Riding. Ann Adv Automot Med. 2010;54:171-80.

Greenwell, N. K. (2015, May). Results of the national child restraint use special study. (Report No. DOT HS 812 142). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Jakobsson L, Bohman K, Stockman I, Andersson M, Osvalder AL. Older Children’s Sitting Postures when Riding in the Rear Seat. Proc. International Research Conference on the Biomechanics of Impact International (IRCOBI), Krakow, Poland, 2011.

NHTSA. Misuse of Child Restraints. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation; January 2004. DOT HS 809 671.

Osvalder AL, Bohman K. Misuse of booster cushions – an observation study of children’s performance during buckling up. Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine. 2008 Oct;52:49-58.

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