Biennial survey shows more children at risk; Michigan's car seat, booster use rates decline

Contact: Anne Readett, OHSP, 517-241-2569

Fewer children are riding in car seats and booster seats in Michigan, according to an observation survey conducted by the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group. For children from birth to 3 years old, 93.6 percent were in car seats, down from 95 percent in 2011. Booster seat use is at 42.4 percent for 4- to 7-year-olds, down from 43.9 percent two years ago.

“Babies, toddlers and young children are extremely vulnerable vehicle occupants,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “It’s essential that children be in the correct seat for their size and that the seat is installed and used properly. Children who move to seat belts too soon risk injuries because the belts don’t fit properly.”

Michigan law requires drivers and passengers 15 years old and younger in any seating position to be buckled up. Children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The survey found that children were least likely to be in the correct car seat or booster if:
     • Riding in a pickup truck (only 28.2 percent properly restrained for children 4 to 7).
     • The driver was male (40.2 percent properly restrained for children 4 to 7 compared to
        43.4 percent for women).
     • The driver was 60 or older (35.6 percent properly restrained for children 4 to 7
        compared to 45.3 percent for drivers 16 to 29).
     • The driver was not buckled up (82 percent properly restrained for children from birth to
        3 and 37.1 percent properly restrained for those 4 to 7).

The study also looked at misuse rates. The most common misuse for rear-facing seats was the seat not being reclined at the proper angle. Rear-facing and forward-facing seats both had frequent issues with the harness retainer clip position and excessive slack in the harness strap. The most common booster seat misuse was the shoulder belt not being properly positioned over the shoulder and chest of the child.

Michigan has a network of more than 950 child passenger safety technicians who assist parents and caregivers with proper installation and use of car seats, boosters and seat belts. For information on car seats or to locate the nearest technician, visit or download the SaferCar app.

This project is part of Michigan’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in February.