Infants don’t come with manuals, but their car seats do. Yet with all the written instructions and online help, a recent study found that 93% of families made at least one critical error in securing their infant in the car seat or securing the car seat to the car. Two hundred and sixty-seven mother-infant pairs were observed at an Oregon hospital’s mother-baby unit. The results of this study were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.
According to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, lead author and Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico, motor vehicle deaths are the leading cause of children’s deaths. In 2007, 4.3 child occupants were killed each day in the US!
This statistic is pretty much supported by informal findings at car seat clinics across Ontario—approximately 80% of child car seats aren't installed properly.
So what were the common mistakes that parents made? Based on the study, here’s what CTV News summarized:
Installing a child car seat isn’t a simple click-and-go task. At our auto repair shop, it often takes us 1 hour to properly install a child car seat and explain to caregivers how to secure the child in the seat. We are Certified Child Car Seat Technicians and have installed numerous child car seats. It should be no surprise that the same study found that families who worked with a certified car seat technician before their baby was born were 13 times more likely to secure their infant in the car seat correctly and install the seat in the car properly.
Interestingly, Dr. Hoffman also recommends that children stay rear-facing until 2 years of age, or when they've reached the maximum weight/height limit of their child car seats. In Canada, some children can meet the minimum requirements to sit forward-facing when they are as young as one year old! His suggestion applies even when the child's legs are getting long and touching the car's seatback. According to Dr. Hoffman, the child's arms and legs are safer when sitting rear-facing.
Be diligent about your child’s safety. Make sure that you read the owners’ manual of your child car seat during the installation. Know that not every child car seat will be appropriate for the vehicle you’re trying to install it in. Call your local St. John Ambulance branch to see if they have Certified Car Seat Technicians on staff or if they can connect you with one. Don’t be part of the 93% statistic! In Canada, the federal government sets standards for child car seats, but enforcement is left to the provincial government. The Government of Ontario has some tips for child car seat installation on their Ministry of Transportation website.
Watch our video for tips on installing your child car seat. If you think child car seats are usually installed properly, remember what happened last year to a Toronto toddler? The child car seat fell out of the car with the toddler strapped to it!
Images via meadjohnson.com