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Majority of Parents Use Car Seats Incorrectly on the First Trip Home

Update Date: Oct 11, 2014 12:26 PM EDT

Using a car seat correctly is extremely important for the safety of an infant or toddler. Despite knowing that a car seat is vital, a new study found that the majority of parents used the seat incorrectly on their very first trip home from the hospital.

"Car safety seats can be difficult to use correctly for many families, and we need to provide the resources and services they need to help ensure the safest possible travel for newborns and all children," said Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, lead author of the study, reported by Medical Xpress.

In this study, the researchers recruited 267 families who were at the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital. The mother-infant pairs were enrolled from November 2013 to May 2014. The researchers did not include infants who were born before week 37 and needed to be cared for at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for more than four hours.

The team analyzed how the families used their car seats and found that 93 percent of them made at least one error that could jeopardize the safety of the child. Errors included placing the infant in the wrong position and installing the car seat incorrectly. The most common positioning error, at 69 percent, was making the harness too loose. 34 percent placed the retainer clip too low, 20 percent used a product that was not approved along with the car seat, 18 percent placed the harness too high and 15 percent did not know how to adjust the harness.

The most common installation error, at 43 percent, included installing the seat too loosely. 36 percent placed the car seat in the wrong angle, 23 percent did not lock the safety belt correctly and 17 percent placed the car seat at an incorrect distance between the seat and the car's front seat.

The researchers had enlisted a certified child passenger safety technician to observe the mothers and recorded all of the mistakes. Before leaving the hospital, the expert fixed the issues.

"We need to move beyond the idea that we cannot afford to develop and support child passenger safety programs," said Dr. Hoffman. "Car crashes kill more kids that any other cause; we can't afford not to."

The study, "Unsafe from the Start: Critical Misuse of Car Safety Seats for Newborns at Initial Hospital Discharge," was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego, CA.

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