The following is a statement from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention:
Parents need to know -- car seats significantly reduce the chance that their child will be killed or injured in a crash.
Making sure your child is in the correct car seat for his age and size is the single most important decision you can make to protect your child from injury or death. Seat belts offer some protection, but using the appropriate child restraint is significantly more effective.
There is proof that car seats protect kids better than seat belts.
For more than a decade, we've studied hundreds of thousands of real-word crashes to understand how crash forces impact a child's growing body and how we can improve vehicles and child restraints to better protect children.
Each year, about 100 children ages 2-6 are killed while wearing seatbelts, 28 of whom (the size of a large classroom) would have been saved had they been using a child restraint. In addition, using the correct car seat for your child's age and size cuts his likelihood of being injured by at least half, when compared with a seat belt. (Durbin, Elliott, et al.)
Improvements are needed to make the rear seats of vehicles safer for children.
We agree with the "Freakonomics" authors' call-to-action to the automotive industry and government regulators to improve the backseat of vehicles so that the unique needs of children are taken into account. In fact, many scientists and engineers employed by the auto industry, car seat manufacturers, research centers, and governments around the world are working tirelessly to achieve this.
Such improvements take time.
Even if implemented today, improved restraints for children in the rear seats of vehicles won't affect the millions of cars already on the road. Until these improved restraints are available to all families, a child seat or booster seat is the right choice for your child at least up to their eighth birthday
Cost should not be a barrier to using a child seat or booster seat.
Car seats do not have to be expensive in order to be effective. Every seat on the market meets federal safety standards. Car seats can be purchased for as little as $50-$70, and boosters for as low as $20- $40. And at hospitals like ours, along with many local police departments, there are programs to help parents get the seats for free or at reduced cost.
Additional Resources for Concerned Parents:
Demonstration of a child in a booster seat vs. a seat belt during a crash:
Parents can learn about correct car seat selection and installation, learn about the research, and locate a child passenger safety technician by visiting www.chop.edu/carseat.