CLEVELAND – Many Americans understand the life-saving value of a seat belt, especially when it comes to buckling in child passengers.

However, a recent study, shows drivers who don’t wear their seat belts are more likely to skip seat belts and car seats for their children.

The study looked at nationwide data on vehicle crashes involving passengers age 19 and younger between the years 2011-2015.

Researchers found when the driver of the vehicle did not buckle up, child passengers, up to age 15, were 16 times more likely to be unbuckled compared to the children of buckled drivers.

Purva Grover, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, did not take part in the study but said parents need to avoid distractions and put safety first when traveling with children, because accidents do happen.

“Sometimes crashes are nobody’s fault – things happen,” she said. “But, the thing we can prevent is distracted driving. In today’s day of constant media – phone use, messaging and everything else which we do – appropriate restraint and focused driving is so important.” 

Dr. Grover said when drivers and passengers are not properly restrained, there is a high percentage of head injuries and even death in vehicle crashes.

She said the risk is especially high for children, because of their anatomy, which is why there are specific laws in each state for proper restraint.

For very young children, having a car seat installed properly and buckled correctly is something every parent needs to learn.

With older kids – whether they are using a booster or not, Dr. Grover advises parents to still double check to make sure everyone is ‘clicked in’ before moving the car.

“If a child requires a car seat, or a belt, or a booster, that means they require assistance, which means we still need to be supervising them; we still need to ensure they are buckling in,” she said. 

Dr. Grover also reminds parents to make sure anyone who is caring for their child and driving them in a car abides by the law and buckles both themselves and their child in properly.

Complete results of the study can be found in Pediatrics.

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