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Protecting Kids in Side-Impact Car Crashes

Seating Strategies May Make a Difference, Studies Show
WebMD Health News

Sept. 13, 2005 -- New research shows that kids' seating arrangements in cars could affect their chances of injury in side-impact car crashes.

"Side impacts are the second most common fatal crash type after frontal crashes and require focused attention from the safety community," says Kristy Arbogast, PhD, in a news release.

The findings include:

  • Lower injury risk for kids aged 4 to 8 in belt-positioning booster seats (especially high-backed models).
  • Lower injury risk for kids aged 4 to 15 sitting with other children in a vehicle's rear row (and wearing seatbelts).

The data come from researchers including Arbogast, the associate director of field engineering for TraumaLink, a comprehensive pediatric trauma research center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania.

The studies were presented in Boston at the 49th Annual Scientific Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine.

Booster Seat Study

Belt-positioning booster seats for kids aged 4 to 8 were one of Arbogast's topics.

Kids in belt-positioning booster seats were 58% less likely to be injured in a side-impact crash, compared with kids wearing seatbelts who weren't in booster seats, the researchers say.

That's similar to their previous findings, Arbogast and colleagues note.

Children in booster seats were found to be less likely to have head and facial injuries, as well as injuries to the abdomen and spine, which the researchers call "seat belt syndrome."

Booster Seat Type

High-back booster seats showed a bigger drop (70%) in injury risk in children aged 4 to 8. Backless booster seats didn't show a significant injury reduction advantage over seat belts alone, the researchers note.

Arbogast and colleagues suggest two possible reasons: the seats' designs and not using the shoulder belt positioner on backless booster seats. The positioner is attached to the seat's bottom by a strap of webbing, the researchers say.

The differences in results for the two seat types should be viewed with caution, write the researchers. Their study didn't include large numbers of affected children -- especially those in backless booster seats. That leaves room for some uncertainty, which should be addressed in future research, note the researchers.

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