Child safety in cars: Literature review

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Torbjörn Falkmer
Susanne Gustafsson
Ylva Matstoms
Thomas Turbell

In order to study child safety in cars, international literature was reviewed with respect to road vehicle transportation for children, with the focus being on the age up to 12 years. The review included literature in English and Swedish. Furthermore, the review was limited to focus on results from Australia, the U.K., the USA and Sweden. To ensure that all children are protected as passengers in cars, several aspects needed to be considered.

Within this study, the focus was, hence, on legal aspects and recommendations, traffic fatalities and serious injuries, the safety consequences for children due to the car development (airbags (SRS) and installation systems), use and misuse of child restraint systems (CRS) regarding medical, technical and user aspects, measurements for improvements, e.g. campaigns and, finally, children with disabilities. The review focused mainly on literature from 1990 until today. The main conclusions were that:

  • Available statistics show that rearward facing CRS is a good preventive measure to take for enhancement of traffic safety.
  • Impacts from the in-safety development of cars on choosing and mounting safety devices for children were found to be a crucial issue.
  • Children exposed to an airbag deployment can be fatally injured, despite being seated in an approved child restraint system.
  • In Sweden and the U.K. the level of child restraint usage among infants and small children was found to be at least 95% in the front seat and approximately at the same level in the rear seat. Even though the levels of usage in several countries were high, the level of misuse was alarmingly high (90%).
  • The road transportation of children with disabilities was found to be complex and insufficiently described in the literature.

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