Objective To characterize restraint use among children brought to an inner-city hospital by private car or taxicab.
Design Cross-sectional survey and direct observation of a convenience sample.
Setting Main entrance and clinic entrance of a large urban public hospital.
Participants Direct observation was made on 352 children brought by 257 vehicles. One hundred seventy-seven parents or caretakers responded to questionnaires for 240 children.
Measures and main results Of the 352 children who were directly observed, 256 (73%) arrived by taxicabs and 96 (27%) by private cars. Thirty-three of 352 (9%) children were observed to be appropriately restrained. Children brought by taxicabs were significantly less likely to be restrained than children brought by private cars (1% vs 31%, P < 0.001). Caretakers reported that seat belts were available in 46 of 54 (85%) private cars, compared to 38 of 88 (43%) taxicabs (P < 0.01). Twenty percent of caretakers who came by taxicabs did not check for seat belts.
Conclusion Taxicabs, which are exempt from the New York State's mandatory seat belt law, are a common mode of transportation for children in the inner city. While the overall use of child restraints in the study sample is low, it is particularly low for children in taxicabs. The low rate may be related to both the decreased availability of seat belts and the lack of the mandatory seat belt law for taxicabs. Strategies should be sought to improve child restraint availability in taxicabs and mandate seat belt use.
© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.