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Incorrect Car Seat Usage Puts Newborns at Risk

First Posted: Oct 13, 2014 06:13 AM EDT

The widespread incorrect use of car seats by parents taking newborns home from the hospital ups the risk of injury in a crash, states a new study.

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital conducted a study on 267 families and found that 93 percent of the families made a major mistake in positioning their infant in a car safety seat or when installing the safety seat in their vehicle. These errors put the newborns at a high risk on their 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, M.D., F.A.A.P., lead author of the study.

The study included mother-infant pair from the OHSU Hospital Mother-Baby Unit from 2013-2014. The study did not include those infants who were born within the gestation period of 37 weeks and those who remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for over four hours.

A certified child passenger's safety technician monitored the new mothers or their designee position the newborn in the car safety seat and install the seat in the vehicle before leaving hospital. They also recorded the misuses based on car safety seat and vehicle manufacturer recommendations. The mistakes of the caregivers were corrected by technicians prior to leaving.

Some of the most common errors noticed in positing the infants included harness to loose, the retainer clip was too low, harness too high and lack of knowledge on adjusting the harness. Some of the common installations errors included incorrect angle of car safety seat, car safety seat installed too loosely, safety belt not locked and incorrect spacing between car safety and front seat of the vehicle.

The families belonging to the lower socioeconomic status were at a higher risk of one or more critical errors. The risk was also higher among those with less education, non-white, who did not speak English and were unmarried or those without a partner.

The researchers noticed that the families who functioned with a certified car seat technician before the child birth were nearly 13 times more likely to position their babies correctly and install the car seat correctly in their vehicles.

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

The finding was documented in the American Academy of Pediatric National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

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