STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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What's this about car seats and race?

 A baby cries in a carseat

A new study about race and car seat safety was released today.

Since the press release came out, there's been more focus on race and less on safety. 

Not surprising, really. To most of us race is more interesting and certainly more controversial than car seats. To play into this reality, the press release announcing the study has the title,"White parents more likely to use age-appropriate car seats than non-whites." 

That is true. It is in fact what the study found. But, the study found several other things that are potentially more important and more interesting and at risk of being lost. Since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for kids over age 4, it's worth paying attention.

Here they are:

  • Around 70% of all parents in the study are transitioning kids out of booster seats and into the front seat earlier than recommended, making them less safe in the case of a car accident. Kids should be in a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. They should stay out of the front seat until they're 13 years old. 
  • Most parents are doing a good job when it comes to car seat safety. Between 85-88% of white parents in the study and 61-69% of non-white parents in the study were following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • Michigan state law is out of step with the AAP guidelines. State law is based on age, and the AAP guidelines are based on height and weight. Parents can follow the law and still not be putting their kids in the safest seat possible.
  • The authors of the study don't know why there is a difference in how parents of different races use car seats. All they know is that it is not dependent on income. The author of the study, Michelle Macy, said it may have to do with parents having bad information on when they should transition children, ease of transitioning seats between multiple cars or places (the safer seats are heavier and harder to install) or social norms. 

Macy also said she and her colleagues are in the recruitment phase for a study that will look into why there's some kind of information gap between white and nonwhite parents on car seat safety. "There is plenty of room for improvement across the board," she said. 
There are plenty of places you can take your car to have them look at your car seats  and booster seats and see if they're meeting the guidelines and installed correctly. Some of them may also be able to help with discounted car seats. And if you'd just like a refresher on the guidelines you can find a quick and dirty version here.

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