Understanding the impact of legislative changes on child car seating and restraint practices in regional Queensland

Bailey, Melissa Catherine (2013) Understanding the impact of legislative changes on child car seating and restraint practices in regional Queensland. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Road crashes contribute to a significant amount of child mortality and morbidity in Australia. In fact, passenger injuries contribute to the majority of child crash road trauma. A number of factors contribute to child injury and death in motor vehicles, including inappropriate seating position, inappropriate choice of restraint, and incorrect installation and use of child restraints.

Prior to March 2010, child restraint legislation in Queensland only required children twelve months and younger to be seated in a properly adjusted and fastened child restraint. This legislation left older infants and young children potentially suboptimally protected. From March 2010, new legislation specified seating position and type of child restraint required, depending on the age of the child. This research was underpinned by the Health Belief Model (HBM), which explores health related behaviour, behaviour change, environmental factors influencing behaviour change (including legislative changes) and is flexible enough to be used in relation to parents' health practices for their children, rather than parent health directly. This thesis investigates the extent to which the changes to child restraint legislation have led parents in regional areas of Queensland to use appropriate restraint practices for their children and determines the extent to which the constructs of the HBM, parental perceptions, barriers and environmental factors contribute to the appropriateness of child seating and restraint use. Study One included three sets of observations taken in two regional cities of Queensland prior to the legislative amendment, during an educative period of six months, and after the enactment of the legislation. Each child's seating position and restraint type were recorded. Results showed that the proportion of children observed occupying the front seat decreased by 15.6 per cent with the announcement the legislation. There was no decrease in front seat use at the enactment of the legislation. The proportion of children observed using dedicated child restraints increased by 8.8 per cent with the announcement of the legislation when there was one child in the vehicle. Further, there was a 10.1 per cent increase in the proportion of children observed using a seat belt that fit with the announcement when there was one child in the vehicle and with the enactment of the legislation regardless of the number of children in the vehicle (21.8 per cent for one child, 39.7 per cent for two children and 40.2 per cent for three or more children).

Study Two comprised initial intercept interviews, later followed up by telephone, with parents with children aged eight years and younger at the announcement and telephone interviews at the enactment of the legislation in one regional city in Queensland. Parents reported their child restraint practices, and opinions, knowledge and understanding of the requirements of the new legislation. Parent responses were analysed in terms of the constructs in the HBM. When asked which seating position their child 'usually' used, parents reported child front seat use was nil (0.0 per cent) and did not change with the enactment of the legislative amendment. However, when parents were asked whether they allowed children to use the front seat at some point within the six months prior to the interview, reported child front seat use was 7 (5.4 per cent) children at T2 and 10 (9.6 per cent) at T3.

Reported use of age-appropriate child restraints did not increase with the enactment of the legislation (p = 0.77, ns). Parents reported restraint practices were classed as either appropriate or inappropriate. Parents who reported appropriate restraint practices were those whose children were sitting in optimal restraints and seating positions for their age according to the requirements of the legislation. Parents who reported inappropriate restraint practices were those who had one or more children who were suboptimally restrained or seated for their age according to the requirements of the legislation. Neither parents' perceptions about their susceptibility of being in a crash nor the likelihood of severity of child injury if involved in a crash yielded significant differences in the appropriateness of reported parent restraint practices over time with the enactment of the legislation. A trend in the data suggested parents perceived a benefit to using appropriate restraint practices was to avoid fines and demerit points. Over 75 per cent of parents who agreed that child restraints provide better protection for children than an adult seat belt reported appropriately seating and restraining their children (2 (1) = 8.093, p<.05). The self-efficacy measure regarding parents' confidence in installing a child restraint showed a significant association with appropriate parental restraint practices (2 (1) = 7.036, p<.05).

Results suggested that some parents may have misinterpreted the announcement of the legislative amendment as the announcement of the enforcement of the legislation instead. Some parents who correctly reported details of the legislation did not report appropriate child restraint practices. This finding shows that parents' knowledge of the legislative amendment does not necessarily have an impact on their behaviour to appropriately seat and restrain children.

The results of these studies have important implications for road safety and the prevention of road-related injury and death to children in Queensland. Firstly, parents reported feeling unsure of how to install restraints, which suggests that there may be children travelling in restraints that have not been installed correctly, putting them at risk. Interventions to alert and encourage parents to seek advice when unsure about the correct installation of child restraints could be considered. Secondly, some parents in this study although they were using the most appropriate restraint for their children, reported using a type that was not the most appropriate restraint for the child's age according to the legislation. This suggests that intervention may be effective in helping parents make a more accurate choice of the most appropriate type of restraint to use with children, especially as the child ages and child restraint requirements change. Further research could be conducted to ascertain the most effective methods of informing and motivating parents to use the most appropriate restraints and seating positions for their children, as these results show a concerning disparity between reported restraint practices and those that were observed.

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ID Code: 63524
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Haworth, Narelle & Lennon, Alexia
Keywords: child restraint, seating position, child safety, occupant protection, road safety, regional, legislative amendment, Health Belief Model
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 21 Oct 2013 02:23
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 04:05

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