One-Third of Parent Drivers Unsure on Child Passenger Restraints

September 5, 2007

When it comes to properly restraining their children in vehicles, many parents are in the dark, according to a survey by GMAC Insurance.

The survey found that approximately one in three licensed parents could not correctly identify that a child must be both at least one year old and at least 20 pounds before being placed in a forward-facing car seat. The drivers who answered incorrectly are certainly not alone; Safe Kids Worldwide reports that nearly 73 percent of child safety seats and booster seats are used improperly. Statistics show that in a crash, child safety seats reduce fatal injury in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants less than one year old and by 54 percent for toddlers one to four years of age.

“As adults, we have a responsibility to ensure that children are safe at all times, and we can’t leave safety in and around vehicles out of that equation,” said Gary Kusumi, CEO and president, GMAC Insurance. “Even though there are many government and private initiatives to address child passenger safety, this survey shows that more must be done to educate parents and caregivers.”

Kusumi points out that while infant safety typically receives greater focus when dealing with child passenger safety, this age group is not the only concern. “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 41 percent of children ages four to eight are riding in booster seats.”

“Very often we let the older children who still need our attention slip through the cracks,” Kusumi said. “Because many state laws only require children up to four to be in a car seat, many parents assume their older children are safe in just a seatbelt. That just isn’t the case. Most children under the height of 4’9″ and between 40 and 100 pounds usually need to use a booster seat to be properly restrained.”

While laws on child passenger restraints vary by state, Safe Kids Worldwide’s Safe Kids Buckle Up program offers the following tips and guidelines for parents to follow in selecting the right type of seat for their child. According to the organization, using the correct restraint isn’t about the age of a child, it’s a combination of the child’s height, weight and how he or she fits into a vehicle. Every car seat and booster seat is different, and caregivers must always understand the seat’s instructions.

Child Passenger Restraint Guidelines

If child is under 1 year old and less than 20 pounds at a minimum use a rear-facing seat and keep child rear-facing as long as seat allows for maximum safety-usually up to 30 pounds.

If child is at least 1 year old and 20 to 40 pounds use a forward-facing seat with a harness and use until harness is outgrown for maximum safety.

If child is under 4’9″ and approximately 40 to 100 pounds use a booster seat.

If child is taller than 4’9″ and more than 80 to 100 pounds use the safety belt, but the child should remain in back seat until age 13.

The NHTSA’s 2007 Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings compares 101 child safety seats (including booster seats) to allow parents to find the child safety seat that will best fit their needs. Visit to find the right safety seat.

The GMAC Insurance survey was administered by TNS, a leading market information resource and the world’s largest provider of custom research and analysis. The national sample was comprised of 5,175 total licensed respondents, aged 16-60+, balanced to the latest U.S. Census data. Of the 5,175 total respondents surveyed, an estimated 3,625 respondents had children.

Source: GMAC Insurance,

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