Science & Tech

Study examines hazardous seating of children in fatal motor vehicle crashes

1 min read

Children still placed in jeopardy, though problem less widespread

A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health scientists examined how often adults placed children in the rear of vehicles, and what factors affected that placement. The study, led by Eve Wittenberg of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, examined more than 28,000 fatal crashes between 1990 and 1998. The proportion of vehicles carrying children aged 12 and under in the front seat declined over that time period from 42 percent to 31 percent. Researchers found that public information campaigns and media attention in the mid-1990s helped raise public awareness of the safety advantages of placing children in the rear seat, particularly in vehicles with passenger-side air bags. However, a number of factors influenced a parent’s decision about where to place a child. When a child was the only passenger, for instance, the child was five times more likely to be seated in the front than when a child was in a vehicle with additional passengers. The authors concluded that, despite improvements, “…a significant proportion of vehicles involved in fatal crashes still show children placed at greater safety risk by virtue of their seating location.”