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9 most common infant car seat mistakes

Posted on Sep. 14, 2015 ( comments)
Carseat Safety Check02 -- Outdated image

In honor of National Child Passenger Safety Week, the Center for Childhood Safety is hosting three car seat inspection events this week. Call the Mary Bridge Car Seat Help Line for more information at 253-403-1417.

If you are in a car accident, you expect your car seat to perform — to do its one and only job and keep your baby safe. But installing a car seat correctly is harder than you might think.

There’s a reason those car seat instruction manuals are so thick. There’s a lot of detail in there — tiny important details that might make all the difference in a crash. Every car seat is unique, every vehicle is unique and every baby is unique — yet we expect our car seats to accommodate our children effortlessly. We assume infant car seats will fit every baby, every car, every time.

How hard could it be? At a recent conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, shared preliminary data from research being conducted at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland. While observing new parents adjust and install their car seat for their newborn’s discharge from the hospital, 93 percent of parents made at least one critical error, with an average of 4.2 errors per car seat.

Factor in nationwide statistics that correct use of a car seat reduces the risk of death in a crash by up to 80 percent, and we have a big problem.

The most common errors in positioning an infant in a car seat:

  • Harness too loose (69 percent)
  • Chest clip too low (34 percent)
  • Use of after-market product not approved with seat (20 percent)
  • Wrong shoulder harness slot (18 percent)
  • Caregiver not knowing how to adjust the harness (15 percent)

The most common installation errors:

  • Car seat installed too loosely (43 percent)
  • Angle of car seat incorrect (36 percent)
  • Safety belt used but not locked (23 percent)
  • Incorrect spacing between car safety seat and vehicle front seat (17 percent)

As a health educator for the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety, I find this data to be consistent with what we see in our own community. It is an important reminder that new and expectant parents need more help, although they may not know it.

In fact, 79 percent of Hoffman’s study participants stated they were “somewhat” or “very” confident in their ability to use their car seat correctly. This demonstrates a painfully obvious disconnect between confidence and skill.

There is a solution. This study also found that families who had worked with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) were 13 times more likely to use their car seat correctly.

Based on these findings, we strongly suggest that expectant and new (and not-so-new) parents have their car seats checked by our experts at the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety. There is no better time than during National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 13–19, 2015.

MultiCare is sponsoring three car seat inspection events for National Child Passenger Safety Week. There is no cost for the inspections. Bring your car seat and vehicle owner’s manual and technicians will teach you how to install your car seat correctly and answer any questions you have.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 15, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital
    • 9–10:30am, no appointment needed
    • Safe and Sound Building, 1112 South 5th Street, Tacoma
  • Wednesday, Sept. 16, Good Samaritan Hospital
    • Call 253-403-1417 to schedule an appointment
    • GSH Children’s Therapy Unit, 402 15th Ave. SE, Puyallup
  • Saturday, Sept. 19, Babies“R”Us
    • 11am–2pm, no appointment needed
    • Babies“R”Us, 2502 South 48th Street, Tacoma
    • A Safe Kids Pierce County event

Feel free to call the Mary Bridge Car Seat Help Line, 253-403-1417, for more information.

More information about the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety

Posted in: Kids' Health

About The Author

Erin Summa Erin Summa, MPH
Erin Summa is a Health Promotion Coordinator with the Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety.
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