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Why aren’t child car seat inspection stations more widely used?

Learning where to get information on child passenger safety

Appropriate use of child safety seats can significantly reduce fatalities and injuries among children in vehicle crashes. While child restraint use has increased over the years, vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death among children.

Safety and education campaigns have focused on this issue for many years, and resources are available to parents and caregivers to aid in correctly selecting and installing child safety seats, including informational brochures, guidelines on the web, and hands-on instruction. Yet, many child passengers still are riding unrestrained in vehicles, in car seats that are incorrectly installed, or in the incorrect type of seat.

Research has shown that hands-on instruction on car seat installation and use is effective in reducing misuse of seats. So, in 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implemented a program for training and certifying child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs). Currently, more than 4,000 Child Car Seat Inspection Stations nationwide provide parents and caregivers an opportunity to receive one-on-one instruction on using and installing car seats.

In spite of the widespread availability of instruction by certified CPSTs, parents and caregivers are underusing this resource.

NHTSA asked Westat to help it understand why these inspection stations are not more widely used.

Westat is conducting a national web-based survey to

  • Estimate the degree of parent and caregiver awareness of CPST inspection stations

  • Determine the relationships among parent and caregiver confidence, risk perception, and intent to visit an inspection station

  • Identify additional barriers to using inspection stations (the target population for the survey is all U.S. households that include parents or caregivers of children age 0 to 9 years)

Westat developed and cognitively tested the survey, developed the web application, and mailed invitation letters to 28,000 sampled households.

  • An evaluation of the barriers to using inspection stations and an understanding of the reasons for the low attendance rates will allow NHTSA and other stakeholders to develop suitable programs that will encourage use of this important life-saving resource.

  • Getting more parents and caregivers to use inspection stations will help reduce child injuries and fatalities from vehicle crashes.

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