Many parents believe that by putting their child in a properly-installed, well-designed car seat, that the child will be well protected in the event of a car accident. Child car seats do provide excellent protection, but only if children are securely buckled into them. Unfortunately, a new study from the Yale School of Medicine indicates that many children can and do unbuckle their own seat belts, negating the protections that car seats are meant to provide.
The researchers surveyed 378 families, and found that more than half of them reported that a child had unbuckled their own seat belt at some time.
Miami car accident attorneys were even more alarmed to learn that the study found that over 40 percent of the incidents involving unbuckled seat belts happened when the vehicles were moving. The study estimated that this more than tripled the risk of injury or death to the children who were unfastening their own restraints.
The unbuckling of seat belts was not limited to older children. In fact, more than 75 percent of the children reported to undo their own belts were age three or younger. Some of the children were reported to be as young as one year old when they managed to undo their own seat belts.
Why would younger children actually be more likely than older ones to undo their own seat belts? The authors 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." In other words, the younger kids don't know any better.
Boys were slightly more likely than girls to undo their own seat belts. The boys made up 59 percent of the unbucklers, and girls were 42 percent.
The most common response to the survey about parental reaction to children unfastening their seat belts was that the vehicle would be pulled over, the child reprimanded and the seat belt refastened.
The study recommended the development of passive safety locks on children's seat belts as a way to protect children from having their belts inappropriately unbuckled.
Car accidents are still the leading cause of death in kids aged 4-8.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek "More Than Half of Kids in Car Seats Have Unbuckled Themselves, Survey Finds" 5/1/2011