Study reveals children can undo carseat restraints

Sun May 1, 2011 2:09am EDT
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BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - Children still too young to walk are finding ways to wriggle out of protective car restraints and are increasing their risk of serious injuries, a study shows.

Researchers at Yale University's School of Medicine found some children as young as 12 months can unbuckle their seatbelts. A majority of youngsters less than three years old can do it, with boys most often the ones attempting to unhook their seatbelts.

"Young children might acquire the motor skills to unbuckle from restraints before developing the cognitive ability to understand the necessity of automotive restraints," said Dr. Lilia Reyes, a clinical fellow at Yale and co-author of the report.

Researchers said the findings should prompt a broader study on devices that would keep kids safer, particularly because car crashes are a leading cause of death among four to eight years old.

The findings, which will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Denver on Sunday, are based on 500 surveys distributed at pediatric offices in Connecticut.

More than 40 percent of children who are able to unbuckle the restraints are doing so while the car is moving, prompting many parents to pull over, reprimand and then re-buckle the child, according to the study.

The idea for the study came after researchers treated patients from accidents caused by the unbuckling and parents, distracted by their children, looking away from the road, Reyes said.

Reyes said she would like to see a future study include a simulation lab to test safety features on a variety of restraints.

Better engineered seatbelts, or even an alarm, might be part of the solution, Reyes added.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; editing by Patricia Reaney)