Seat belts as effective in children as in adults

May 09, 2002

Despite standard seatbelts being designed for adults, they protect school age children at least as well as adults, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers at ten crash investigation centres in Canada identified 470 children aged 4-14 years and 1,301 adults to study the effectiveness of standard seat belts for protecting school age children in road vehicle crashes.

Overall, 40% of children were unbelted, and 22% of children travelling with belted adults were unbelted.

The odds of sustaining fatal or moderately severe injury for children in the front passenger seat was more than nine times higher for unbelted children than for belted ones, and for those in the rear left seat was more than two times higher for unbelted than for belted children.

These results consistently show that school age children involved in motor vehicle crashes were less severely injured if they were wearing a seat belt, say the authors. Previous research has provided mixed results on the effectiveness of seat belts for school age children, and in some jurisdictions children are still allowed to travel unbelted in the back seats of road vehicles, they add.

"However, our findings do not answer the question about whether the degree of protection afforded by standard seat belts is sufficient," they conclude.
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BMJ

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