Objective.

This study was designed to characterize the restraint use of children in fatal crashes and to determine factors that were related to child restraint use.

Methods.

Crashes in which a vehicle occupant died were selected from the 1994 Fatal Analysis Reporting System data. Restraint use of children (0–9 years) in these crashes was characterized and examined in relation to vehicle and driver characteristics.

Results.

Restraint use declined with increasing age of children and increasing number of occupants. Restraint use was also lower in older vehicles, in pickups and large vans, between 3am and 6 am, and in rural areas. Driver characteristics associated with lower restraint use of child passengers included unrestrained drivers, younger drivers, and alcohol use at the time of crash. Driver restraint use was the strongest predictor of child restraint use. Differences in restraint use by age of the child, number of occupants, time, urban/rural area, and driver restraint use persisted in a logistic model.

Conclusion.

Restraint use in crashes is substantially lower than that in observational studies, suggesting that these studies are not reflective of high-risk conditions for crashes in which children are involved. Child occupant protection counseling must stress restraint use under all conditions of travel. Local, state, and national efforts must be aimed at increasing family occupant protection for the entire family.

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