(WXYZ) - When it comes to keeping kids safe in the car, many parents are ignoring car and booster seat guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A new study about car seat safety was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers analyzed data collected from observers at gas stations, fast food restaurants, recreation centers and child care centers. The observers were instructed to look at cars that arrived and record the child restraint type and the location where the child was sitting in the car. Drivers were then interviewed about their children's age and race.
Information was obtained for 21,476 children.
Researchers found the older a child was, the less likely that the child was properly restrained.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics car seat guidelines, children should be restrained in rear-facing seats until two years of age, but the study found most children were placed in forward-facing car seats after the age of one.
The guidelines also recommend that a child be placed in a booster seat until they reach 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old child. However, the study found that less than 2 percent of children used a booster seat after the age of seven.
The guidelines suggest children ride in the back seat until the age of 13, but observers recorded many children, some as young as six years old, riding in the front seat.
The study also found drastic differences in compliance with car seat recommendations across races. Researchers say a high proportion of minority groups were more likely to prematurely transition children from car seats to seat belts.
"The most important finding from this study is that, while age and racial disparities exist, overall few children are using the restraints recommended for their age group, and many children over five are sitting in the front seat," says Dr. Michelle L. Macy, co-author of the study. "Our findings demonstrate that not all children have been reached equally by community-based public education campaigns and the passage of child safety seat laws in 48 states."
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