1998 SURVEY RESULTS

CHAPTER 8

TRENDS
1994-1998

 

Car Seat Use 1994-1998

The proportion of parents/caregivers who said that the selected child (under age 6) “always” uses a car seat increased from 59% in 1994 to 71% in 1998. Conversely, children in that age range who never use a car seat decreased from 29% in 1994 to 22% in 1998.

Figure 78  

Figure 78. Frequency Child Under Age 6 Rides In Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: When you are driving and (AGE) rides in the vehicle with you, how often does (he/she) ride in a child car seat. *Child car seats include infant seats, toddler seats and booster seats. Would you say (he/she) rides in a child car seat all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely, or never?
Base: Parents/caregivers as defined on page 28.
*This sentence was added to the question in 1998.

 

The proportion of children who were reported in 1998 to be using car seats “all of the time” increased across weight ranges from the previous survey. The recorded increase was smallest for those weighing under 20 pounds, largely reflecting that the vast majority of infants (more than 90%) during earlier years already were said to be using car seats full time.

Figure 79  

Figure 79. Reported All The Time Car Seat Use By Child's Weight, 1994-1998

Qx: How much does (he/she) weigh?
Qx: When you are driving and (AGE) rides in the vehicle with you, how often does (he/she) ride in a child car seat? Child car seats include infant seats, toddler seats and booster seats. Would you say (he/she) rides in a child car seat all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely, or never?
Base: Parents/caregivers as defined on page 28.
*Minor adjustments have been made to 1994 weight numbers for analytic consistency across years.

 

There has been at least a 10 percentage point increase since 1994 in the proportion of children reported to use car seats “all the time” for all age groups specified below except 5-year-olds, with the largest increase occurring among 3-year-olds. In terms of the two most recent survey years, the largest increase between 1996 and 1998 occurred among 4-year-olds.

Figure 80  

Figure 80. Reported All The Time Car Seat Use By Child's Age, 1994-1998

Qx: What is the age of the (CHILD)?
Qx: When you are driving and (AGE) rides in the vehicle with you, how often does (he/she) ride in a child car seat? Child car seats include infant seats, toddler seats and booster seats. Would you say (he/she) rides in a child car seat all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely, or never?
Base: Parents/caregivers as defined on page 28.
*Minor adjustments have been made to 1994 age numbers for analytic consistency across years.

 

In each of the survey years, a proportion of respondents who said that the child “always” used a car seat when riding with them acknowledged on a follow-up question that the child actually had not been in the car seat at some point in the recent past. However, in each of the years, the vast majority answered that any lapse had occurred a year or more ago, or else reiterated that the child was always in the seat.

Figure 81  

Figure 81. Last Time Child Didn't Use Car Seat: Drivers Who Said Child Uses Seat ?All The Time?

Qx: When you are driving and (AGE) rides in the vehicle with you, how often does (he/she) ride in a child car seat? Child car seats include infant seats, toddler seats and booster seats. Would you say (he/she) rides in a child car seat . . .
Qx: When was the last time (he/she) did not ride in a child car seat when you were driving?
*Qx: [If “don't know] Has there been any occasion in the past 12 months when (he/she) did not ride in a car seat when you were driving?
Base: Drivers who said the child uses a car seat “all the time” when they drive.
*This follow-up question was added in 1996.

 

Type and Location Of Car Seat, 1994-1998

In 1998, one-in-seven children using car seats normally rode in a rear facing position, three-fifths rode in toddler seats in a front facing position, and one-quarter were using booster seats. This was similar to previous years.

Figure 82  

Figure 82. Type Of Child Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: When (he/she) is fastened in the child car seat, are there straps over both shoulders, a strap across only one shoulder, or are there no straps over either shoulder?
Qx: When you are driving and (he/she) is riding in the child car seat, is it usually front facing or rear facing?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Children riding in car seats increasingly are being placed in the back. Whereas 78% reportedly rode in the back seat in 1994, the figure rose to 85% in 1996 and then 90% in 1998.

Figure 83  

Figure 83. Placement Of Child's Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: When you are driving and (he/she) rides in the child car seat, is it usually in the front seat or the back seat?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Whereas 91% of parents/caregivers in 1994 knew that the back seat was the safest location to place a child car seat in the vehicle, the figure rose to 97% in 1996 and 98% in 1998.

Figure 84  

Figure 84. Where It Is Considered Safest To Place The Child Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: Where would you say it is safest to place a child car seat in the vehicle . . . in the front seat or the back seat?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

In recent years, far more people have become aware of the danger of placing a rear facing infant seat in the front seat of a vehicle having a passenger side air bag. Whereas only 56% of parents/caregivers in 1994 knew that this was an unsafe action, 88% considered it unsafe in 1996 and 92% considered it unsafe in 1998.

Figure 85  

Figure 85. Safe Or Unsafe To Place Rear Facing Car Seat In Front With Passenger Side Air Bag, 1994-1998

Qx: Some child car seats are designed so that the child faces backward to the rear of the motor vehicle. Suppose a child is riding in a child car seat facing backward. If the vehicle has a passenger side air bag, is it safe or unsafe to have the child car seat in the front seat?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Acquisition of Car Seat

Eighty-five percent of parents/caregivers in 1998 reported that they obtained the car seat new, compared to 89% in 1996 and 84% in 1994.

Figure 86  

Figure 86

Qx: Now thinking about the child car seat the (AGE) usually rides in, did you get the child car seat new or used?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

There was no noticeable difference between the past two surveys in whether or not parents/caregivers had purchased the car seat. In both 1998 and 1996, about two-thirds of parents/caregivers had purchased the car seat, while slightly more than one-quarter had received it as a gift or loaner from a relative or friend.

Figure 87  

Figure 87. How Obtained Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: Did you purchase the child car seat, did you get it as a gift or loaner from a relative or friend, or did you get it from a loaner program?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Sources For Information On Car Seats

Little to no difference emerged across years in reported sources for information on car seats. The largest observed difference was an increase in those who cited tv and/or radio: from 59% in 1994 to 68% in 1996 and 65% in 1998. Relatively few persons identified a safety hotline as an information source in either 1994 (3%), 1996 (2%), or 1998 (2%).

Figure 88  

Figure 88. Reported Sources For Information On Car Seats, 1994-1998

Qx: Did you ever read or hear of any information or receive any advice about the need to use child car seats from any of the following sources? Did you get any information from . .?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Ease of Use

Compared to 1994 (68%), parents/caregivers in 1996 (60%) were less likely to say that it was very easy to attach the child car seat to the vehicle they usually drive. The 1998 figure rebounded to slightly above the 1994 figure as 71% of parents/caregivers in that year answered that attaching the car seat to the vehicle was very easy.

Figure 89  

Figure 89. Ease Of Attaching Car Seat To Vehicle, 1994-1998

Qx: How easy is it for you to attach the child car seat to the vehicle you usually drive . . . very easy, somewhat easy, or not easy at all?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat, and the car seat did not come attached to the vehicle.

 

There was little difference across the survey years in the reported source for learning how to attach the car seat to the vehicle. For each survey, about three-quarters of parents/caregivers said that they determined how to attach the seat by reading the instructions.

Figure 90  

Figure 90. How Learned To Attach Car Seat To Vehicle, 1994-1998

Qx: How did you learn to attach the child car seat to the vehicle?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.
Total responses per year exceeds 100% due to multiple responses.

 

More than seven-in-ten parents/caregivers considered it very easy to properly buckle their child into the car seat regardless of the survey year.

Figure 91  

Figure 91. Ease Of Buckling Child In Car Seat, 1994-1998

Qx: How easy is it for you to properly buckle your child into the child car seat?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.

 

Part Time Car Seat Users

In each survey year, only a small number of parents/caregivers reported that the selected child was a car seat user, but not on every trip (between 100 and 150 cases each year). Because of the small numbers, readers should exercise caution when reviewing the findings as most differences between years were not statistically significant (see chart in Appendix A).

In 1998, parents/caregivers were less prone than in previous years to attribute occasional non-use of a car seat by the child to the shortness of the trip, being in a hurry, and the child not liking the car seat. Unavailability of the car seat became the second most frequently cited reason for non-use. 

Table 9
Reasons Child Does Not Ride In Car Seat: Part Time Users
1994-1998

Qx: Please answer yes or no to each of the following statements. When my (AGE) doesn't ride 
in a child car seat, it is sometimes because . . . . . .
Base: Child uses a car seat, but not all of the time.

Reason
1994 
(N=137)
1996 
(N=116)
1998 
(N=115)
Child Doesn't Like It 

Seat Isn't Available 

Only Short Time In Car 

Child Won't Stay In It 

No Room For Seat 

S/He Is Too Big 

We Are In A Hurry 

Other

37% 

28% 

46% 

29% 

30% 

20% 

28% 

13%

39% 

26% 

39% 

25% 

16% 

19% 

25% 

7%

31% 

30% 

29% 

24% 

21% 

15% 

15% 

5%

 

When not in the car seat, the interviewers asked the parents/caregivers if the child usually sat on someone's lap, by him/herself in the front seat, or in the back seat. Most responded that the child typically sat in the back, although the obtained figure was lower in 1998 (54%) than in 1996 (65%). In 1998, parents/caregivers were more than twice as likely not to respond to the question at all compared to the previous two survey years.

Figure 92  

Figure 92. Where Child Rides When Not In Car Seat: Part Time Users, 1994-1998

Qx: When the (AGE) doesn't ride in the child car seat when riding with you, does he/she usually sit on someone's lap, sit by him/herself in the front seat, or sit in the back seat?
Base: Child uses a car seat, but not all of the time.

 

In 1998, most parents/caregivers (69%) continued to report that the child used a seat belt “all the time” when not riding in a car seat, with some suggestions that there had been an increase from two years earlier (61%).

Figure 93  

Figure 93. Frequency Of Seat Belt Use When Not In Car Seat: Part Time Users, 1994-1998

Qx: When the (AGE) doesn't ride in the child car seat when riding with you, how often is he/she buckled in a seat belt?
Base: Child uses a car seat, but not all of the time.

 

Never Users Of Car Seats

Those children under age 6 who never used car seats generally were viewed as too big for the seats and had been moved to seat belts. This finding was consistent across survey years. 

Table 10
Reasons Child Never Rides In Car Seat
1994-1998

Qx: Please answer yes or no to each of the following statements to indicate if this is a reason 
why the (AGE) does not ride in a child car seat. My (AGE) doesn't ride in a child car seat 
because . . . . . .
Base: Child under 6 never uses a car seat.

Reason
1994
(N=226)
1996 
(N=218)
1998 
(N=162)
Child Uses Seat Belt 

Child Is Too Big 

Child Doesn't Have One 

Child Doesn't Like It 

Child Won't Stay In It 

Not Enough Room In Car 

Other

94% 

77% 

27% 

22% 

20% 

16% 

10%

96% 

86% 

31% 

16% 

11% 

12% 

3%

94% 

84% 

25% 

21% 

15% 

11% 

8%

 

There was virtually no change between 1996 and 1998 in reported seat belt use for children who never use car seats. Reported usage in both those years was somewhat higher than in 1994.

Figure 94  

Figure 94. Frequency Child Uses Seat Belt: Children Who Never Use Car Seats, 1994-1998

Qx: How often does he/she use a seat belt?
Base: Child under 6 never uses a car seat.

 

Booster Seats

In 1994, booster seat use was determined by asking respondents if there were straps over both shoulders, one shoulder, or neither shoulder. The term “booster seat” was not used. In 1996, questions were added asking if parents/caregivers had ever heard of booster seats, and whether they had used one. Questions about concerns over the safety of booster seats were added in 1998. There was no evidence of increased awareness of booster seats in 1998. To the contrary, a smaller percentage in 1998 than in 1996 said they had seen or heard of booster seats. However, the difference was small, and the question wording and base changed slightly from 1996 to 1998.

Figure 95  

Figure 95. Seen Or Heard Of Booster Seats, 1996-1998

Qx(1996): Have you ever seen or heard of a type of car seat called a booster seat?
Base: Parents/caregivers whose child either currently uses a car seat or had used one some time in the past (98% of parents/caregivers in the sample).
Qx(1998): Before today, had you ever seen or heard of a type of car seat called a booster seat?
Base: Parents/caregivers as defined on page 28.

 

In both survey years, there were fewer than 100 cases in the sample of infants riding in rear facing seats, with essentially no difference in the small percentage of those children expected to use seat belts after outgrowing their current infant car seat. However, the data suggested that parents/caregivers were more likely in 1998 than in 1996 to consider adding additional intermediate steps (i.e., graduating to another car seat) for older children before having them move to seat belt use.

Figure 96  

Figure 96. Expect Child To Use Seat Belts After Outgrowing Current Car Seat, 1996-1998

Qx: When your (AGE) outgrows his/her current child car seat, do you expect him/her to use a different type of car seat, a seat belt or something else?
Base: Child at least on occasion rides in a child car seat.
 
 

Support For Enforcing Car Seat Laws

In 1998, 60% of the public believed that police should give a ticket at every opportunity for violations of car seat laws. This compared to 53% in 1996 and 58% in 1994.

Figure 97  

Figure 97. Level Of Support For Enforcing Car Seat Laws Using 10-Point Scale, 1994-1998

Qx: How do you personally feel about the police enforcement of child car seat laws? On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means police should hardly ever give tickets and 10 means police should give a ticket at every opportunity for violations of child car seat laws, how strict should police enforcement be?
Base: Total population age 16+.

 

Support For Laws Requiring Seat Belt Use After Child Has Outgrown Car Seat

In each of the survey years, 94% of the public agreed that children who have outgrown child car seats should be required by law to wear seat belts when riding in a vehicle.

Figure 98  

Figure 98. Children Should Be Required To Wear Seat Belts When They Have Outgrown Car Seats, 1994-1998

Qx(1994/1996): What about when children under the age of 6 outgrow a child car seat? Do you agree or disagree that they should be required by law to wear seat belts when riding in a vehicle?
Base: Total population age 16+.
Qx(1998): What about when children outgrow a child car seat? Do you agree or disagree that they should be required by law to wear seat belts when riding in a vehicle?
Base: Total population age 16+.

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