Background In Australia, road related fatality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–4 years are 4 times higher than for other Australian children the same age. Children are less likely to be severely injured in a car crash if they are restrained in an age-appropriate car restraint and if the restraint is used correctly. Despite this, little is known about how Aboriginal children are travelling and whether or not they are being correctly restrained in age appropriate child restraints.
Methods Working with community and following extensive consultation and engagement in four urban communities in New South Wales, Australia, we recruited and trained local Aboriginal people to conduct surveys with parents and carers and to observe how children were restrained as they arrived at early childhood services attended by community members.
Results In 2015, we conducted interviews with 147 parents and carers and completed 109 observations of child restraint use at the 4 study sites. Parents or carers provided responses to the structured survey for 183 children. The average age was 3.0 ± 1.3 years (range 0–7 years) and 137/183 (75%) were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. There were 36/176 (20%) not in the right restraint for their age; significant errors ranged from belt buckle not being engaged (11%) to internal/shoulder harness being incorrectly or not used (31%).
Conclusions These findings are the first stage of the baseline data collection for a large trial involving 12 Aboriginal communities across New South Wales. It is the first large scale trial to measure the effectiveness of a culturally appropriate child restraint program among Aboriginal people in Australia. In a country where adult restraint use is close to 100%, these preliminary findings highlight the need for a program aimed at increasing the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children restrained in age appropriate restraints.