This study investigates the role of restraint misuse in pediatric motor vehicle trauma. Restrained children ages 0-12 years who were injured in motor vehicle crashes and admitted to a trauma center were studied. Restraint use was determined via crash reconstruction. Clinical data were collected prospectively and analyzed with respect to injury severity, and cost. Restraint misuse was found for 84% of children. Incorrectly restrained children experienced a higher mean ISS than correctly restrained children (12.3 vs. 7.1; p = 0.05) and incurred medical charges more than 2 times higher (US$36,839 vs. $15,004; p = 0.013). Case presentations illustrate patterns of injury associated with types of misuse. Incorrect restraint use is associated with greater injury severity and higher medical charges.