Misuse of restraints by child occupants.
The objective of this research is to characterise the type and frequency of restraint misuse by child occupants, and the implications for restraint effectiveness. This paper presents preliminary findings from three areas – a field study of restraint misuse, real-world injury cases, and crash simulations in the laboratory. Results from these studies demonstrate that misuse is widespread in all restraint types, and includes errors in installation of child restraints and incorrect use of the restraint by the occupant. Injury data shows that incorrect use of the restraint by the occupant (e.g. excessive slack in harnesses, placing sash belt under the arm or behind the back) can be associated with catastrophic injuries. Laboratory simulations demonstrate the injury mechanisms are the result of excessive occupant motion allowed by the restraint. This research demonstrates that to get the full protective benefit from restraints, it is not only important that children use the most appropriate restraint for their size, but that the restraint is used correctly. Failure to educate parents on the correct use of restraints could potentially negate the benefits of appropriate restraint use laws and guidelines.