Evaluating the Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats and Seat Belts in Protecting Children from Injury

Steven D. Levitt, Joseph J. Doyle

NBER Working Paper No. 12519
Issued in September 2006
NBER Program(s):Children, Law and Economics, Public Economics, Health Economics

Young children are required to use child safety seats, and the age threshold at which children can legally graduate to seat belts has steadily increased. This paper tests the relative effectiveness of child safety seats, lap-and-shoulder seat belts, and lap belts in preventing injuries among motor vehicle passengers aged 2-6. We analyze three large, representative samples of crashes reported to police, as well as linked hospital data. We find no apparent difference in the two most serious injury categories for children in child safety seats versus lap-and-shoulder belts. Child safety seats provide a statistically significant 25% reduction in the least serious injury category. Lap belts are somewhat less effective than the two other types of restraints, but far superior to riding unrestrained.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12519

Published: Doyle, Joseph J., Jr. and Steven D. Levitt. "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats and Seat Belts in Protecting Children from Injury." Economic Inquiry 48, 3 (July 2010): 521-36. citation courtesy of

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