Child in the Centre Seat

Federal Office of Road Safety - Contract Report 107

Full report in .pdf format [4.5MB]


Lap belts, fitted to centre seats of Australian cars for the past fifteen years, have come under criticism as being injurious to children. The weight of evidence is that they provide substantial protection, though less than three point belts. A specific injury, the seat belt syndrome (SBS), to abdominal viscera and/or lumbar spine, has been associated with lap belts, an association confirmed by two studies in Melbourne. The incidence of SBS was calculated from Transport Accident Commission claims. The centre rear seat (lap belt) carried three times the risk of SBS as outboard rear seats (three point belts) which in turn have 2.7 times the risk of the outboard front seat. The number of SBS cases in Victoria has increased with penetration of the fleet by post 1971 cars. The annual estimated number of cases, for 1987, is 186 adults and ten children. Suggestions are made for improvements in the restraint system.