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Study Finds Car Seat, Seat Belt Laws Do Not Save Children
Medical researchers find that passing laws mandating car seats and seat belts has no impact on child traffic fatalities.

Car seat
Laws promoting the use of seat belts and car seats for children have no significant effect on child traffic accident fatalities, according to a study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center attempted to identify the state-level public policies that had a statistically significant impact on the 18,116 fatal road accidents involving children under the age of fifteen.

After sorting through the US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, the researchers found the most telling factor was how common it was for an appropriate restraint system to be properly used in each state. The study estimated that 232 children could be saved each year by improving the overall rate of proper restraint use from 20 percent to 10 percent.

"Since laws governing child traffic safety are made at the state level, we formulated a study design that would produce state-by-state geographic results, which could easily be utilized by policy makers aiming to reduce pediatric mortality and save children's lives in their states," the study's lead author, Lindsey Wolf, said in a statement.

Merely passing laws mandating child car seat use had no effect on child deaths, according to the study.

"Notably, other policy specific variables, including those addressing seat belt and car seat laws, did not have significant associations with the outcomes," the report found.

Unlike seat belt laws, however, red light camera legislation did have a significant impact on outcomes.

"Our findings suggest an association between states that have legislation either permitting or prohibiting red light cameras and lower state motor vehicle crash-related pediatric mortality," the report concluded.

The researchers did not suggest that installing red light cameras would help the situation. Rather, they found states with enough interest in traffic safety to debate the issue in the legislature had a statistically lower child death rate. The report said the scientific evidence supporting the use of automated ticketing was "mixed."

"There has been methodological critique of the published studies, with some authors arguing that red light cameras may not improve and may actually increase crashes and injuries," the study explained. "To date, there are no randomized, controlled trials published on red light cameras."

The study calls for more research into child safety issue. A copy is available from the Journal of Pediatrics in a 600k PDF file linked below.

Source: PDF File Factors Associated with Pediatric Mortality from Motor Vehicle Crashes (Journal of Pediatrics, 5/23/2017)

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