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Children at risk from car lap belt

CHILDREN'S lives are being risked by the use of lap belts in the back seats of cars -- doctors have claimed.

A study has found that one child died and a number of others were seriously injured in crashes in just one year while wearing only lap belts.

The use of adult seat belts without booster seats for young children can lead to severe abdominal, lumbar or cervical spine injuries, as well as head and neck injuries.

The doctors -- from Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin -- said lap-belt injuries in a single year resulted in the death of one child and long-term disability in two others.

"It highlights the dangers of using lap belts without shoulder straps," the doctors warn in a study published in the Irish Medical Journal.

Appropriate child safety seats are recommended for pre-school children; until a child fits properly in a seat belt, booster seats and booster cushions should be used.

"Standard lap belts are designed to restrain an adult just below the centre of gravity at the pelvis," the report found.

"However, the immature anatomy of a child's pelvis cannot provide anchor points for the belt until the child is at least 10 years old, as in children the lap belt lies across the lower or mid abdomen rather than at pelvis level."

The children who suffered injuries from lap-belt syndrome over a year ranged in age from 22 months to 10 years.

hnews@herald.ie