Factors that influence children’s booster seat use

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #250 [2006]

Authors: Judith Charlton, Sjaanie Koppel, Michael Fitzharris, Melinda Congiu & Brian Fildes

Full report in .pdf format [840KB]


The aim of this study was to gain a more detailed understanding of the restraint usage rates, ‘appropriateness’ of restraint use, and the factors that influence appropriate restraint use for children in the booster seat age group. Six hundred and ninety nine parents from the States of New South Wales and Victoria completed a questionnaire regarding restraint use by their children aged 4 to 11 years. The findings revealed that only 24 percent of children aged between 4 and 11 years old were travelling in a booster seat, while the remaining 76 percent were travelling in a seat belt. Children travelling in booster seats were significantly younger (5.8 years vs. 8.2 years), lighter in weight (21.9 kg vs. 30.3 kg) and shorter in height (115 cm vs. 131 cm) compared with children travelling in a seat belt. Children travelling in a booster seat were also significantly more likely to be sitting in the front passenger position (for all vehicle types) (38%) compared to children travelling in a seat belt (28%). Appropriateness of restraint use was computed using height criteria of 100-140 cm for booster seats and greater than 140 cm for seat belts . Based on the height measurements provided by parents, children travelling in booster seats were found to be significantly more likely to be appropriately restrained (93%) compared to children travelling in a seat belt (25%). The likelihood of being appropriately restrained in a booster seat was greater for female children compared with males and greater amongst those who had a sibling in a seat belt compared with those who did not. Appropriate booster use was also influenced by parents’ knowledge about size thresholds for transition to seat belts and there was a greater likelihood of appropriate use of boosters with increasing age and weight of the child. Amongst those children using a seat belt, the mean age for their transition into a seat belt was 5.6 years. The most important reason cited by parents for moving a child into a seat belt was that the child was too big for their forward facing child restraint/booster seat (69%). Children who were appropriately restrained in a seat belt were more likely to be in a smaller vehicle than a larger vehicle and not have another sibling in a booster seat compared to those who did have a sibling in a booster seat. Additionally, the likelihood of appropriate seat belt use increased with greater weekly distance travelled and increased age and weight of the child. The findings highlighted the need to improve legislation on child restraint usage and to promote awareness amongst both parents and children of safety benefits associated with appropriate restraint use and seating position.

Sponsoring organisation - Motor Accidents Authority