Carseats2A study by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center finds most Iowans are taking the proper steps to protect babies in cars, while teenagers lag behind when it comes to seatbelt use.

Cara Hamann led the study which showed adults are following Iowa’s child safety seat law. “We are at 99 percent, so almost everyone is doing a good job on that,” Hamann says. “An in the two to five year olds…we’ve seen improvement in the amount of people using booster seats or child safety seats for those two to five year olds.” She says the high use of car seats is likely a result of educational efforts to inform parents of the proper way to transport kids.

“I would hope a lot of this could be attributed to hospitals and police departments doing those checks. And I know hospitals make sure people don’t leave hospitals (with a newborn) without the proper equipment. So, those efforts really make a difference,” according toe Hamann. The use of the safety equipment in cars goes down as the kids get older.

She says teenagers from 14 to 17 years old have the worst use of a seatbelt at 84 percent, which she says is quite a bit lower than some of the younger age groups. Hamann says many of those teens don’t have an adult with them in the car and that could be why their seatbelt use is lower.

“I definitely think that could be part of it,” Hamann says. “We’ve found that the more passengers with teens….sometimes you find lower seatbelt use when there’s a group of teenagers,” Hamann says. The U-I survey also found that people who live in Iowa’s smaller towns are less likely to use seatbelts.

“We have four different categories ranging as a thousand and then as high as over 50-thousand. And we really find a trend where the smaller the community, the lower the restraint use is. Both for the children and the drivers — so even the adult seatbelt use is lower in those smaller communities,” Hamann explains. Hamann says the lower use of seatbelts in rural communities could be because there are fewer education programs there. There could also be a feeling that there’s not as much traffic in smaller towns and less of a worry about accidents.

“That could be part of it, maybe also enforcement. Maybe in urban areas there’s more visibility of law enforcement and so maybe people feel more compelled to use restraint in those areas,” Hamann says. “We are not 100 percent sure what is going on there.”

The survey found 88 percent of the people in communities with 1,000 to 2,500 residents used the proper seatbelt of child seat in cars. That moves to 93 percent in communities with 50,000 people or more. The surveys have been conducted since 1988 and Hamann says there are some areas for improvement, but overall Iowans do a good job.

“The positive thing is that we still see — even if it is small increases — some king of improvement each year. So, we are moving in the right direction,” Hamann says. The surveys are funded by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) within the Iowa Department of Public Safety.