How can we effectively boost child passenger safety?

Boosting child passenger safety


Putting children in a car seat or booster seat that’s appropriate for their age and size is the most effective way to protect young children involved in motor vehicle crashes. In 2019, 88% of children ages 0-12 years old were using a restraint system when traveling in a vehicle. However, compared to 40% in 2017, only 37% of 4- to 7-year-old children were using booster seats, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Westat will be helping NHTSA conduct the 2021 National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (NSUBS), which involves observing children in cars and interviewing the adult occupants. The survey enables NHTSA to target its outreach programs and campaigns on child passenger safety.


We developed the original research design for NSUBS in 2006 and conducted the study periodically since then. Westat updated the design for 2015 and revised database software and training materials to accommodate the redesign.

We established data collection sites and prepared customized maps that identify every site, as well as the date and time when field staff will visit.

The study involves field staff observing children in cars at the selected locations and interviewing the adult occupants to determine if the child’s restraint is the correct type for his or her age and size.


Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for most age groups until adulthood.

NSUBS allows NHTSA to better understand whether children through age 12 are using appropriate restraints, and how such use varies across geographic and demographic groups.

Access previous NSUBS final reports from the NHTSA website.


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