Where do children sit in Australian passenger vehicles? Results of an observational study
International research suggests that a large proportion of children travel in the front seat of passenger vehicles even though this places them at increased risk of serious injury or death. There are no comparable figures for Australia. This study was conducted to estimate the proportion of Australian children seated in the front seat of passenger vehicles and to explore restraint use. Trained observers noted the seating positions of children, their ages and the types of restraints used for 1295 passenger vehicles carrying child passengers (aged 12 years and under) in Brisbane during March/April 2005. Results suggest that approximately 60% of passenger vehicles carrying children had at least 1 child seated in the front seat. Age was associated with greater likelihood of front seating with most child front seat passengers being aged 7-12 years. While over 90% of child passengers were restrained, around 25% wore restraints that were not optimal for their ages. These figures indicate a clear opportunity for interventions aimed at raising awareness of the risk involved in allowing children to occupy the front seat as well as encouraging parents and drivers to seat them in the rear seat whenever possible. There is also a need to explore parental knowledge of age-appropriate restraints and to encourage more widespread use.