While the vast majority of Chinese parents agree on the necessity of using child safety seats in their cars, fewer than 20% of them have actually used them, according to a recent poll.
The survey was conducted by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, which talked to 4,375 parents with children under 13 in Beijing and four other cities (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Jinan and Chongqing).
Survey results indicate that only 19.7 percent of respondents had ever used safety seats at all.
Usage rates in central Beijing are higher than the overall poll average, though still only 28% report using them.
Unlike the United States and many EU countries, China does not have regulations on the wearing of seat belts nor on the mandatory use of child safety seats.
Misconceptions reign among Chinese parents, some who responded to the survey by saying children are safer held in their parents’ laps than in a car seat.
Some parents surveyed said child safety seats were not necessary because they are only traveling short distances and moving at slow speeds, while others say the seats are to difficult to use, bulky or are of questionable quality.
The China Daily quoted a Beijing mother of a 4-year-old girl as saying that she purchased a safety seat and used it until the child was 18 months old, but then stopped.
"She wanted to move freely and wanted to be cuddled by us. She did not like the restraints of the safety seat," she told the newspaper.
According to Nils van Doorn, who has been selling child safety seats in Beijing and Shanghai since 2009 via his shop Baby International, the devices are recommended for all children under 1.5 meters tall.
Children under four should have their seat facing the back, he said. "In the case of a car accident, the impact force on the fragile neck and spine of the child is significantly lower when the seat is positioned that way," van Doorn said.
Between the ages of 4 and 12, children should use a booster seat, he said. "The booster seat allows the child to use the safety belts in the car but adjusts their position, because otherwise the belt will go over their throat, and if the belt gets pulled in the case of an accident, it will strangle the child."
Van Doorn said that while he’s seeing more and more local Chinese buying car seats, there still tends to be a knowledge gap.
"There’s still a significant lack of awareness on the dangers of not using a car seat in the general public," van Doorn said. "In the West, there’s a public understanding that not using car seats for children is dangerous and a taboo. Even though parents in China might somehow know that not using a seat can be dangerous, they seem not to fully understand that they risk their child’s safety and even life."
The WHO estimates that around 10,000 Chinese children die annually in automobile accidents, which works out to more than 27 children on an average day.
"China lost almost three times as many children in car accidents as the U.S. in 2012, even though it has fewer than half the number of vehicles," van Doorn said.
"I still can’t understand how in a country where overprotection of the mother and child seems the norm — just think of the RMB 100,000 many pay for the new mother to spend a month-long post-partum period in a special treatment center — trying to save a bit of money on a car seat has always been a big question mark for me."
Image: Baby International