By statute, pediatric passengers transported in motor vehicles need to be appropriately restrained. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that currently only 2% of children do not wear safety restraints. This study aimed primarily to evaluate the use of pediatric restraints (seat belts) in motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) transported to our Level I pediatric trauma center (PTC) compared with historical NHTSA controls.
A 4-year review utilized our Level I PTC registry for patients younger than 16 years, involved in an MVC. Appropriate booster seat/child restraints were verified by EMS, fire rescue, and patient/family. Odds ratios were used to compare occurrences and χ2 for categorical values with significance defined as p <.05.
A total of 685 pediatric patients in MVCs were admitted to our PTC during the study period. Only 39 of 685 (5.7%) pediatric patients were in restraints. Based on the NHTSA historical controls, 671 of 685 (98%) children would have been expected to be using restraints (5.7% vs. 98%, p < .01). The odds ratio of lack of use of child restraints or seat belts in pediatric trauma population was markedly higher compared with NHTSA historical controls (odds ratio 793.9, 95% confidence interval: 427.02–1475.98, p < .0001).
Astonishingly low rates of child restraints and seat belt use in pediatric patients in MVCs, requiring admission to a PTC, indicate the need for better injury prevention programs, and parental or driver education on risks associated with lack of restraints.