The percentage of children who are properly seated in child-protection car seats has edged down for the first time since the seats became compulsory in 2000, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The agency said a survey found that only 51.7 percent of children under 6 were properly seated in child-protection seats, down 0.7 percentage point from the previous year.

The survey has been conducted every year since the child-protection seat law went into effect in April 2000.

The NPA said it plans to raise awareness of the need for such seats through road safety campaigns.

The NPA and the Japan Automobile Federation conducted the survey between May 24 and June 3, covering 13,050 children up to 5 years old in 102 locations across Japan.

The study found that 29.4 percent of the children were either using regular car seats or were in child-protection seats but without the safety belts fastened.

In 12.3 percent of the cases, adults were holding children on their laps, and in 6.6 percent of the cases children used adult seat belts.

The survey found that 72 percent of children under 1 were placed in child-protection seats, but the rate dropped to 52.5 percent for the 1-4 age bracket, and 31.2 percent for 5-year-olds.

Nearly seven out of 10 child-protection seats were loosely fitted, the NPA said.

Traffic fatality statistics for 2002 showed that children not using protective seats were 4.3 times more likely to be killed than those properly seated.

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