Parents are doing a better job of properly positioning infants and toddlers in their car seats, but older kids aren’t always safely seated, a new study reports.

The research suggests that child passenger safety education programs are working for infants and young children, increasing the number of parents and caregivers who understand that children younger than 2 years of age should ride in rear-facing car seats.

“This study shows that child passenger safety education has been a success in making sure young children are positioned correctly in the car, but there is still room for improvement,” said lead researcher Dr. Joseph O’Neil. He is medical director of the Automotive Safety Program at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

For the study, researchers conducted spot checks to look at where children were sitting in a car. Specifically, the researchers monitored the type of car seats used, as well as how and where they were positioned in cars, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) news release.

The spot checks included more than 7,700 children aged 15 and younger. The spot checks took place at 25 different locations throughout Indiana between 2009 and 2015.

The AAP recommends that children be placed in rear-facing safety seats until they are at least 2 years old.

The researchers found rear-facing seat placement among infants increased from 84 percent in 2009 to 91 percent in 2015. During this time, use of rear-facing car seats also increased from 12 percent to 61 percent among toddlers aged 12 months to 17 months.

The AAP also recommends that children aged 4 to 8 years ride in booster seats. But use of these seats fell during the study period, from 72 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2015.

The study authors noted that educational campaigns should also make sure children continue to ride in booster seats until they are at least 8 years old. Plus, parents should keep all children out of the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.

The study findings are scheduled for presentation on Sept. 18 at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about car seat safety.

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