Observed racial disparities in child safety seat use have not accounted for socioeconomic factors. We hypothesized that racial differences in age-appropriate restraint use would be modified by socioeconomic status and child passenger safety information sources.
A 2-site, cross-sectional tablet-based survey of parents seeking emergency care for their 1- to 12-year-old child was conducted between October 2011 and May 2012. Parents provided self-report of child passenger safety practices, demographic characteristics, and information sources. Direct observation of restraint use was conducted in a subset of children at emergency department discharge. Age-appropriate restraint use was defined by Michigan law.
Of the 744 eligible parents, 669 agreed to participate and 601 provided complete responses to key variables. White parents reported higher use of car seats for 1- to 3-year-olds and booster seats for 4- to 7-year-olds compared with nonwhite parents. Regardless of race, <30% of 8- to 12-year-old children who were ≤4 feet, 9 inches tall used a booster seat. White parents had higher adjusted odds (3.86, 95% confidence interval 2.27–6.57) of reporting age-appropriate restraint use compared with nonwhite parents, controlling for education, income, information sources, and site. There was substantial agreement (82.6%, κ = 0.74) between parent report of their child’s usual restraint and the observed restraint at emergency department discharge.
Efforts should be directed at eliminating racial disparities in age-appropriate child passenger restraint use for children <8 years. Booster seat use, seat belt use, and rear seating represent opportunities to improve child passenger safety practices among older children.