At first blush, this story looks downright scary.

In a study published by the Yale School of Medicine and reported on in Sunday's Business Week, researchers found that more than half of the kids in child safety seats had unbuckled them on their own - and of those kids, more than 3/4 of them had done so even while the car was still moving.

Two statistics render this information particularly frightening:

  1. Car accidents are the leading cause of death in children between ages 4 and 8; and,
  2. By unlocking the car seats while the car was in motion, the children increased their risk of serious injury by more than 3.5 times.

What is not made clear from this Business Week article, though, is a practical question and consideration:

Should car seats be made to prevent children from unbuckling the seats on their own, or is that more properly the province of the parent? Cast in a slightly different light, at what age - if any - is it appropriate for children to be able to unbuckle a car seat on their own?

In answering this question the following must be borne in mind: the target audience for many of these car seats (including yours truly) are parents who doing long-term car pool for their kids' school, and to the extent that the kids are able to buckle themselves in and let themselves out of the car seats, that may be deemed a tremendous convenience - provided that the children are old enough to appreciate the dangers of being unbuckled in a moving vehicle.
Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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