Thirty-four percent of infants killed in accidents in 2000 were unbelted, the report said. That compares with 48 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 8 and 54 percent of those aged 9 through 12.
In addition, 59 percent of youths aged 13 to 16 who died in accidents were not wearing seat belts, said the report issued by the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, Inc., a safety group financed by automakers, and Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a research organization funded by State Farm Insurance.
Many of the deaths among older children could have been prevented if they were wearing seat belts, said Dr. Flaura Winston, a researcher and trauma expert from Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.
The report found that the number of fatalities for infants and toddlers decreased by 24 and 15 percent, respectively, between 1991 and 2001, while the number of deaths among children ages 4-8 and 9-12 increased by 2 and 7 percent. The report used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Winston said researchers need to develop a child crash test dummy to make vehicles safer for children.
She said safety groups also need to concentrate funding on seat belt programs that are most effective with high-risk groups, including non-English speakers. Pediatricians, teachers and child care providers also should be educated about proper belt use, she said.
The federal government recommends car safety seats for children up to 40 pounds and booster seats for children over 40 pounds until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. All children should ride in the back seat until age 13.
By Dee-Ann Durbin