another look at child passenger safety

Earlier this week Consumer Reports reported on the performance of certain child restraints in side impact crashes. That generated a few calls and emails to me from concerned parents.

Now I see that they are retracting the article because of new data they are considering. It seems that the crash velocities used in the Consumer Reports testing far exceeded the 35-38 mph standard that is typically used. Go check out their retraction statement HERE.

I like to highlight this information because any pediatric OTs out there who have young children on their caseloads should be sharing this information with parents. When parents hear about these reports they begin to lose confidence in their car seats - it is critical that parents continue to place their children in their car seats.

This is particularly true for parents of children who have disabilities. Many of these parents already lack confidence in child restraints. Traditional child restraint devices do not address the unique positioning needs of children with disabilities (AAP, 1999). Premature babies and children who are smaller or larger than average are not well protected in typical child restraints. Children who have tracheotomies require special consideration for protection of their airways. Children who have muscle tone abnormalities require specialized external support to accommodate for their positioning needs. Because of these and other complexities, parents and school personnel make inadvertent installation and securement errors when the children are riding in their families' cars and on their school’s buses.

Providing education to parents and professionals regarding options for safe transportation of children with disabilities helps to improve children's health and well-being and prevents injuries and deaths.

The parents of children with disabilities have unique occupational needs associated with the safe transportation of their children. Parents must accommodate their children’s physical disabilities as well as their own adaptive habits and routines of caregiving. Many experienced child passenger safety professionals do not know how to evaluate and intervene in these complex scenarios. Conversely, many occupational therapists who understand the multi-factorial issues associated with childhood disability do not have any experience with crash dynamics, securement systems, and legal mandates of safe transportation.

So this is a good opportunity for OTs to have conversations with parents about child safety restraints. Stay tuned for new information once Consumer Reports re-evaluates its crash testing on infant seats.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention (1999). Transporting Children With Special Health Care Needs. Pediatrics, 104, 988-992.


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