Booster Seat Usage Among Young Children Low in Michigan

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 11, 2005

Relatively few children who should be riding in booster seats are doing so, according to study results released today by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). A

ccording to a direct observation study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), booster seat use in Michigan among children aged 4 to 8 is only 8.6 percent.

“This survey clearly demonstrates that far too many children in Michigan are at unnecessary risk of being injured in crashes because they are either in the wrong restraint for their size, or worse yet, totally unrestrained,” said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director. “MDCH is committed to improving the rate of booster usage in the state.”

In the statewide study – the first of its kind in the nation – UMTRI researchers visited fast food restaurants, day care centers, and shopping centers to observe restraint use for children ages 4 to 8. Observation results indicate that 48.8 percent of the children were restrained by an adult safety belt, 5.1 percent were riding in a child safety seat when they should have been in a booster seat, and 37.5 percent were completely unrestrained. Safety belts are designed for adults and will not properly restrain children in a crash. Children placed in poorly fitting adult safety belts can suffer life-threatening injuries or can be ejected during a crash. A booster seat reduces a child’s risk of injury by 59 percent over a safety belt alone, Olszewski said.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that children ages 4 to 8 and under 4’9” tall use booster seats. A booster seat raises a child up so that the lap and shoulder belt fit correctly, with the lap belt over the top of the thighs and the shoulder belt across the shoulder and chest.

The Michigan Department of Community Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Section is working on a 4-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase the correct use of appropriate child restraint systems, with a specific emphasis on booster seats among low use groups in Michigan.