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Parents’ knowledge and use of child restraints in regional and rural NSW: results from a survey.
Parent-reported and observed use of child restraints has increased in many countries in recent times and is high for children in Australia (>90%). However, many children are suboptimally protected because the restraints they are using are too big for them. This study sought to explore possible reasons for this using a survey of parents and carers (N = 284) of children aged 6 years and under. Questions addressed parents’/carers’ knowledge about the “best size” ranges for restraints available on the Australian market, the types of restraints they were using with their children and frequency of use as well as their views on fitting restraints to vehicles. Results indicate that, though parents are well informed about the benefits of child restraints, they are less well informed about appropriate sizes for different restraints, especially those suitable for older children. In particular, more than 50% of these parents gave minimum age/weights for booster seats that were too low. The majority of the parents in this sample were reportedly using a restraint appropriate for the child’s age. However, over 30% of the children in the 4-6 year old group were arguably too small for the restraints they were using. These results suggest that interventions to improve children’s protection as passengers should target parents’ perceptions of when to move children into larger restraints. It seems particularly critical to emphasise erring on the side of caution in relation to the upper age/weight for both forward facing child seats and boosters in order to encourage parents to retain children in these until they have truly outgrown them.