You're Probably Doing Your Car Seat Wrong

According to a recent study, only about five percent of people actually use these car seat correctly. Here's what you're doing wrong and how to fix it.

You're Probably Doing Your Car Seat Wrong

A car seat will make your next car ride much, much safer for your infant child. You know this, but you might not realize that this is only true if you use the seat correctly—and most parents don't, according to a recent study.

The study in question looked at nearly 300 parents and the results were not encouraging. Of the parents observed, only five percent installed their car seats correctly—and most of the parents who didn't get it right made more than one mistake. Half of the families who didn't use their car seats correctly had at least five errors during installation and just one in five families made only one blunder.

Common mistakes

Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., medical director of Tom Sargent Children's Safety Center and an author of the study, spoke out about the study's findings. "As a practicing pediatrician, I became frustrated at seeing so many unrestrained kids in cars, as well as kids critically injured in car crashes," he said. "Mistakes are common because car seats can be complicated. The manual for the car seat does explain all the recommendations, but they can be hard to understand, and many people may not read them for a variety of reasons."

Hoffman, who is also a longtime certified car seat technician, decided to study car seat errors upon noticing how frequent they were. In light of this, a team of child passenger safety technicians observed mothers install and position newborns in their car seats. As mentioned above, they observed 95 percent of survey participants making at least one error. About 91 percent of participants made "serious" mistakes, the kind that could be dangerous even during normal car travel.

Getting it right

Now that you've heard this news, you probably want to know which mistakes cause the most harm. "A number of studies have shown that an incorrect angle of recline can lead to injury to babies, especially if too upright, as the baby's head can flop forward and obstruct the airway," Hoffman said. "Having a chest clip too low can allow the baby to slump, and there have been cases of strangulation a a result."

In short? You might want to check with a car seat safety technician (find one near you using this resource) to ensure that you're placing your baby in his car seat properly—because if this study is any indication, you probably aren't.