NEWTON, MA | May 1, 2002
Some child passenger safety instructions may be putting children at risk, a groundbreaking study shows. The study found significant problems with the content, availability, accuracy, and appropriateness of educational materials designed to teach adults how to transport children safely. The study, called “Seated for Safety,” was conducted by researchers at Education Development Center, a non-profit education research organization, and was funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The researchers reviewed more than 400 printed items collected from 101 organizations. A sample of the materials was evaluated for technical accuracy, cultural appropriateness, and appropriate reading level. Among the problems the study found:
- Most of the materials were written two or more years ago, and many were out of date; child passenger safety recommendations have since been revised.
- Few materials deal with the safety needs of children ages 6-12.
- Many items did not contain key information, such as the need to put pre-teen children in the back seat.
- Most of the materials were not appropriately field-tested or evaluated.
- Few of the materials addressed the needs of high-risk children, including those from low-income and non-English-speaking families.
- Most of the evaluated materials were available only in English and required above-average reading skills.
- Few items dealt with transporting children with special health care needs or transporting children in vehicles other than standard passenger cars.
“Our main goal was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing materials,” says Julie Ross, a co-author of the study. “We hope our results will be used to improve the next generation of child passenger safety resources. Organizations that produce safety materials should have them reviewed for technical accuracy by child passenger safety experts.” Ross suggested also making sure the instructions were culturally appropriate for the intended users and that the materials should be reviewed each year for accuracy.
Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death for children age 12 and under. Between 1994 and 1998, 5,500 motor vehicle passengers 12 and under were killed and 660,000 were injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contributing factors included inappropriate restraints; inappropriate “graduation” to seat belts; and improper seating position.
“Parents need to know how to keep their children safe in the family car, and that means they need good information that they can understand,” says [AAA Foundation speaker]. “We sponsored this study because of the sad fact that every day, children die because their parents did not know how to transport them safely. We need to make sure that child passenger safety information is clear, understandable, and as free of errors as possible.”
The report also recommended that new materials be developed on specific topics, such as guidelines for children with special health care needs and children riding in vans, taxicabs, airport shuttles, buses, and older cars with lap belts only. Researchers also suggested paying particular attention to rural areas, where pickup trucks and other vehicles without standard back seats are common. The report recommended that child passenger safety information be made more widely available in public places such as libraries, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and post offices.