Objectives—To ascertain whether there are differences in child seating location between selected cities in the US and continental Europe, and if differences exist, to ascertain what factors predict them.
Setting—Boston and New Orleans, which have no laws regarding child seating location, and Paris, Frankfurt, and Brussels, which for approximately 20 years have had laws requiring children under the ages of 10 or 12 to sit in the rear.
Methods—Observations were made in the first quarter of 1997 at several locations in or near each city. The vehicle seating capacity, total number of occupants, the seating location of adults and children, and driver shoulder belt use were recorded for each vehicle with at least one child. The predictors of a vehicle having a child in the front were estimated using logistic regression.
Results—Data on 5501 children riding in 3778 vehicles were collected. Adjusting for differences in vehicle seating capacity, occupant mix, and driver shoulder belt use, vehicles in the European cities are significantly less likely to have a child in the front seat than vehicles in the American cities.
Conclusions—Cities with no history of laws prohibiting children from sitting in the front, vehicles with low seating capacity, vehicles with no adult (other than the driver) or many child passengers, and unbelted drivers were associated with a higher likelihood of children riding in the front seat. It is feasible for a society to insist, through custom and/or law, that children sit in the back seat.