Melbourne, Mar 16 : Obesity has hit Aussie kids so hard that their fatness is making car seats smaller for them, says a new research which claimed that booster seats should be made bigger keeping the children's growing size in mind.
According to a study, by accident researchers in Melbourne, almost 40 per cent of children who meet the height criteria for booster seats are too heavy to use them.
Parents are instead restraining overweight and obese youngsters with adult seatbelts, a dangerous alternative that leaves them more vulnerable to injury in an accident.
Citing the situation, researchers are calling for a bigger, tougher booster seat standard to cope with weights up to 10 kilograms heavier, putting Australia in line with the notoriously heavyweight United States.
"We've had the call for bigger chairs and hospital beds, strengthened ambulances, and even tougher (equipment) in mortuaries, and now bigger booster seats too,'' News.com.au quoted Ian Caterson, a professor of human nutrition at the University of Sydney, as saying.
"It's just one more sign that we've got serious problems with our weight and this time it's the safety of our children that is at stake," Caterson added.
In the study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, parents of 633 children aged 4 to 11 years were surveyed who fell within the recommended height range for using booster seats.
They found only 29 per cent were typically restrained in booster seats.
"A key finding was that 37 per cent of the children who met the recommended height criteria exceeded the maximum weight for booster seats stipulated by the current Australian safety standard,'' lead author Dr Sjaanie Koppel said.
"This appears to be a significant issue for children aged seven years and older in particular. And despite such children not meeting the minimum recommended height for use of adult restraint systems, seatbelts appear to be the preferred mode of restraint for these children, "Koppel said.
Research shows that children aged four to seven have significantly less risk of head and spinal injuries, internal organ injury, and lower body fractures when restrained in a booster seat compared with an adult seatbelt alone.
The team called for the maximum booster weight to be increased from 26 to 36kg and a new parental education campaign as part of the Federal Government review of restraint guidelines currently underway.
Obesity experts stressed that while building everything bigger served a practical purpose, it did not deal with the root cause of the problem.
"We need to be preventing obesity in the first place,'' Caterson said.
"As well as the individual looking at their own physical activity and diet we need to change the whole environment to make it easier to take the healthy option.''
The study is published in the Medical Journal of Australia.