A Dalhousie researcher has revealed that many parents misuse child safety seats leading to preventable injuries and compromising on safety.
Dr. Beth Bruce of Dalhousie University's Faculty of Health Professions and Department of Surgery said that school-aged children in Canada are 10 times more likely than children in other age groups to die or sustain severe injury in road crashes.
Dr. Bruce indicated that misuse of safety seats and failure to use of booster seats use are primarily responsible for these high rates of automobile deaths and injuries.
"There are whole scenarios parents will give us. But what we don't know is why those things convince them to put their children at risk," said Dr Bruce.
Recently Dr Bruce was awarded 438,000 dollars from AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence to improve the understanding of parents' use of booster seats. Using a booster seat correctly reduces risk of injury by 70 per cent and death by 90 per cent.
"We'll be looking at the challenges parents face in adhering to national booster seat guidelines for their children. Strategies for working with parents who are unaware or resistant to booster seat recommendations will be identified and tested in order to mitigate the high rates of serious injury and death in this age group," said Bruce.
According to a national 2006 Transport Canada study, at least 70 per cent of Canadian children aged four to nine years were not in a booster seat. However, in Nova Scotia the rate is 65 per cent and of those Nova Scotia children who were not in a booster seat and were involved in a car crash, 83 per cent suffered an injury requiring hospital treatment.
There is a law in Nova Scotia since January 1, 2007, that children under 145 cm (4' 9") or under age nine have to be in a booster seat while travelling in a vehicle. A booster seat protects a child's small body in a crash and raises them up so the adult seatbelt fits properly.
"It seems people are aware of the legislation, but they're still not complying," said Dr Bruce.
Kids in the age group of 0-1 years are safest in rear-facing child safety seats. Over the age of one and 10 kg (22 lb) and babies can move to a forward-facing car seat with a tether strap. Many children outgrow the forward-facing car seat at approximately four-and-a-half, graduating to a booster seat.
"People have gotten the message with the younger children but not so much with the older children, which is why we're doing the research," said Dr Bruce.