When we plan to take our newborns for a ride, their safety is the first thing that comes to mind. Car seats should ensure that our kids are safely tucked in, right? Not necessarily. A new study found that nobody knows how to properly install a car seat and protect newborns.
So it’s really up to us to be more considerate and thoughtful of the way car seats are installed and used. Starting with giving that manual a better chance, regardless of how user-unfriendly it is. The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, takes a critical stance over the topic of newborn safety in cars and improper use of car seats.
The study surveyed 291 families. About half of the families had older children too, while half were taking their only newborns for a ride for the first time. Certified technicians were asked to supervise the way the families installed car seats and the way the newborns were strapped in.
Of the 291 families, only 5 percent managed to install the car seats and strap the babies without major mistakes. The rest proved that really nobody knows how to properly install a car seat and protect newborns. 50 percent of the families had five or more mistakes in car seat installation and infant positioning. Approximately one out of five families made only one mistake.
MD Benjamin Hoffman, lead author of the study and medical director with the Tom Sargeant Children’s Safety Center, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital declared that the spark for the study was the alarmingly high number of infants and children coming in hospital as a result of car accidents. Car crashes and improper infant positioning in car seats are among the lead infant mortality causes in the U.S.
As for car seat installation, mistakes are so common also because car seats are sometimes quite complicated. User manuals aren’t too helpful either. And calling in a certified technician might be out of reach for some. The study found that parents with low levels of education or who didn’t speak English had the highest number of mistakes both in car seat installation and infant positioning.
During the study, the certified technicians spent 20 to 85 minutes with each family, thoroughly checking the installation process and infant positioning. The check was conducted in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines. Perhaps unsurprisingly and due to low awareness, 95 percent of the families used a rear-facing car seat for their newborns. Only 5 percent used what is known as a convertible car seat for the babies, a much safer option.
86 percent of the parents didn’t quite get the works of correct infant positioning in the car seat. 77 percent of the families made at least 5 mistakes in car seat installation. 89 percent of the mistakes registered were considered critical.
Among the critical mistakes which seriously endanger children strapped in the car seats, the study mentioned strapping the clip too low, leaving the harness loose, installing the car seat at the wrong angle. At the same time, using the incorrect harness slot for strapping as well as non-regulated products, and not fastening the seat sufficiently tight were considered critical mistakes.
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