First things first, and let there be no mistake about it: in a motor vehicle crash, a seat belt alone does not deliver the same level of protection as a child safety seat or booster seat.
"Children aged 4 to 8 and using Belt Positioning Booster seats were 45% less likely to sustain injuries than similarly aged children who were using the vehicle seat belt."
I bring this up today because of a disturbing segment on Tuesday's Good Morning America. The audience for this piece heard authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner--who were promoting their latest book--suggest that child safety seats and booster seats are no more effective than adult seat belts at protecting children during motor vehicle crashes.
Now, if you want to slice up the data to be provocative, have at it. As a grandfather and as Secretary of an agency whose number one mission is safety, I don't have that luxury.
I prefer to help parents make the kind of choices that can keep their kids not just alive, but safe.
It won't raise any eyebrows, but if advocating child safety seats and booster seats can reduce the number of deaths and injuries among children from motor vehicle crashes, I'm okay with that.
At the websites of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and DOT's National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration, you'll find plenty of analysis supporting the common-sense decision to use child safety seats and booster seats.
But, here are a few quick points to make that decision even easier:
- Those arguing against the effectiveness of child restraint systems base their work on only one national set of crash outcome data that is already biased toward less effectiveness;
- Arbogast and Durbin's analysis, based on 2 sets of data and limited to crashes where children were restrained with more recently developed seats, indicates that children in car seats have 28% less risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash than children using adult seat belts;
- Even after accounting for serious car seat misuse, children in car seats have 21% less risk of dying; and
- Every car seat on the market must meet federal safety standards. Child safety seats can be found in a wide range of prices; many effective models are affordable, and many programs distribute them for free or at reduced cost.
While I admire Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner's call for better child restraint systems, there are better ways to urge progress on that front. And I ask Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner this question: were it not a state law, would you really choose not to buckle your own children into age-appropriate restraints?
I'm pretty sure I know the answer.
So please, parents, choose wisely; buckle those kids securely into age-appropriate restraints.