Children who read or play with electronic devices while in cars could be at increased risk of injury in an accident.
A novel study from Monash University observed and analysed the activities and behaviours of children aged one to eight, travelling in a child restraint system in 414 family driving trips.
Families each drove a test car, equipped with videos and other measuring devices, for two weeks and the positioning, posture and activity of the children was recorded.
The research found that children were correctly restrained for 56 percent of the analysed trip time, suggesting significant safety improvements can be made.
Lead researcher Suzanne Cross from Monash University Accident Research Centre told the 13th Australasian Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Conference in Ballarat that children reading or using electronic devices were more likely to have their heads out of the optimal position for safety.
Ms Cross said correct use of child restraints was vital to ensure optimal safety.
“Optimal head positions were defined as the child’s head being upright and within the side wing structure or protective zone of the child restraint.”
The research found children reading and playing on an electronic device hung their head forward, or forward and to the side, often falling outside the protective side wings of the child seat.
“A child’s head position may determine their potential impact with the vehicle interior or other occupants in the unfortunate event of a motor vehicle crash,” she said.
Playing with toys, sleeping and watching DVDs were safer activities in the car, promoting better posture and head position.