The restraint usage and seating location of children in crash-involved passenger cars were estimated using National Accident Sampling System (NASS) data. Whether drivers of cars were restrained or not appears to play a dominant role in whether child passengers were likewise restrained or not.
Most infant passengers were restrained irrespective of driver restraint usage. In contrast, the restraint usage of older children was dramatically influenced by the driver's restraint usage. If the driver was restrained, restraint usage by children dropped only slightly. If, however, the driver was unrestrained, restraint usage by children dropped by an order of magnitude This precipitous drop in restraint usage appears to have occurred by the age of five or six. Thereafter, the restraint usage of children riding with unrestrained drivers remained low and relatively constant.
Unrestrained drivers-who had a considerably greater fraction of unrestrained child passengers-were likely to compound an already unsafe situation by placing their unrestrained child passengers in the front seat more frequently. Since the latest available NASS data are for the 1995 calendar year, it is too soon to know whether the recent wide-spread publicity urging that children be placed in the back seats of vehicles is being heeded.