Traveling with Restraint
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“Traveling with Restraint,” Ensign, Sept. 1982, 49

Traveling with Restraint

As parents, you’re trying to do the best you can to ensure the health and safety of your children. You feed them a nourishing breakfast, bundle them up warm, and if you live in a place where you have to drive them to school you load them into the family car and drive carefully. But wait.

Look at those children riding with you. Are they using seat restraints? Are you? In order to be safe, all passengers riding in the car should be properly restrained. As an adult, this means that you are using a lap belt and shoulder harness if available. For your children who are less than four years old (or forty-five pounds), it means that they are using specially designed car safety seats.

You might make the assumption that since you’re only going a short distance, it doesn’t really matter whether you take these safety precautions or not. However, a Washington State study found that fatal accidents involving young children usually occurred under ordinary circumstances on dry roads at low speeds during daylight hours, were unrelated to alcohol usage, and occurred within twenty-five miles of home.1

It is interesting to note that even with the admonition to “buckle up for safety” only one out of every five adults uses seat belts. Of those adults who do use seat belts, only one-fourth of their children are properly restrained.2 This becomes an ominous fact when you consider that motor vehicle crashes result in more deaths among children than any single disease.3 In the 1970s, 16,820 children 0 to 4 years of age were killed in motor-vehicle-related accidents in the United States.4

Studies done with car seats have shown that when they are used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, 93 percent fewer deaths and 70 percent fewer serious injuries have been recorded.5

Among parents who do not use infant restraints, one of the most common riding positions of an infant is in the arms of an adult. Unfortunately, this is the most lethal position. In a 30-mph collision, a fifteen-pound baby can suddenly weigh as much as 450 pounds. Regardless of how strong you are, there is no way you can hold on to that baby in a crash. As a result, the infant will hit the dashboard with the force of a fall from a three-story building. To compound problems further, if the adult holding the infant is not using seat belts, his body will act as a crushing force upon the baby’s body.6

Some parents, even after they buy a car restraint, do not use it according to the manufacturer’s directions. For instance, they do not anchor the restraint by the vehicle’s seat belts, or they do not secure the harness, or they do not use the tether strap. The best car seat for you and your child is the one you’ll use correctly every time you are in the car.

Comparative shopping information about restraints may be obtained from many sources. Restraints can also be obtained on loan from many local and national government agencies. Pam Mahan Gurell, RN, BSN, Salt Lake City, Utah


  1. Robert G. Scherz, “Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents of Child Passengers from Birth through Four Years of Age in Washington State,” Pediatrics, Oct. 1981, pp. 572–75.

  2. Jerome J. Karwacki, Jr., and Susan P. Baker, “Children in Motor Vehicles—Never Too Young to Die,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 1979, pp. 2848–51.

  3. Keith S. Reisinger, M.D., et al, “Effect of Pediatricians’ Counseling on Infant Restraint Use,” Pediatrics, 67:2, February 1981, p. 201.

  4. “Accident Facts, Motor Vehicle Deaths and Death Rates by Ages, 1913–1979,” (pamphlet), U.S. National Safety Council, 1980, p. 60.

  5. Scherz, pp. 572–75.

  6. “Children in Crashes,” ed. Anne Fleming, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, June 1981, p. 16.