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Surprising Number of New Parents Using Infant Car Seats Incorrectly

Summary: The vast majority of new parents don’t know how to correctly install a car seat or place their infant safely inside, finds an alarming new study. But fortunately, education can make a big difference when it comes to keeping your baby safe on the road.

Here’s a shocking stat: Less than 10 percent of new parents correctly install or place their newborn inside of their car seats.

The startling findings come from a new study of 267 families that will be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego. Researchers randomly selected mother-newborn pairs from an Oregon hospital from November 2013 to May 2014. The majority of participants were 30 to 39 years old, married, college-educated, first-time parents. A small proportion (20 percent) previously had their CSS checked by a technician, and the majority (79 percent) reported feeling somewhat or very confident in their ability to correctly install their car seat.

While the new moms installed their car seats and buckled their infants inside for the first time, certified child passenger safety technicians observed and noted any misuses according to the car seat and vehicle manufacturer recommendations. A full 95 percent of moms in the study made a critical error while installing the car seats or while placing their infants inside. (Though thankfully the technicians corrected the mistakes before the mothers actually drove away.) Some of the most common errors?

69 percent of moms kept the infant harness too loose, while 18 percent placed it too high
43 percent of moms installed the car seat too loosely
23 percent of moms did not lock the safety belt after installing the car seat
17 percent of moms left too much or too little space between the car seat and vehicle front seat
15 percent of moms did not know how to adjust the harness
The stats are truly sobering, since small mistakes like these can put an infant at risk for getting injured during a car crash. Still, there’s some encouraging news: Mothers who worked with a certified car seat technician before giving birth were 13 times more likely to install their car seat and position their baby correctly.

In other words, all it really takes to ensure that your baby is buckled safely in the car is the right information. To learn more about installing your infant’s car seat correctly, check out What To Expect’s Car Seat Safety Guide, which helps you navigate car seat instructions, face your baby the right way, choose the safest spot in the car for your baby’s car seat, correctly tighten the straps and more.

Expert guidance makes a difference, too — and it’s easy to find: Search for a child passenger safety technician in your area through the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program, or find a car seat inspection station near you through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s directory. Another option? Attend one of the more than 8,000 free nationwide car seat inspection events sponsored by the Safe Kids Coalition. They’ll all help make sure your little bundle of joy is as safe on the road as possible.

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