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New Study: Car Seat Misuse Rampant

New Study: Car Seat Misuse Rampant

Protecting your child on the road comes down to proper car seat use. But that doesn't happen nearly half the time, says a new study. Here's what you need to know.

More parents than ever are using the old pool noodle trick—using one to make a car seat fit better in a vehicle. And now there’s a new study that explains why.

Child car seats and vehicle seats don’t align properly more than 40 percent of the time, according to research out of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. That leads a whole lot of moms and dads to use the noodles (or rolled up blankets or towels) to jerry-rig a proper fit.

Data from nearly 3,600 potential child car seat-vehicle combinations and 34 physical installations were analyzed. The results will be published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention in early October.

Researchers found the most common problems were rear-facing seat bases that didn’t match the angle of the vehicle seat, and headrests, particularly immovable ones, that prevented forward-facing seats from resting flush against the seat back.

RELATED: Find a professional car-seat installation service.

Parents tend to place too much emphasis on buying the “best” car seat. Even the most popular, priciest seat with top safety ratings may not provide the best protection if it’s not the right fit for car it’s in. All car seats have to pass the same federal safety regulations, so making sure a child gets the highest level of protection is more about proper use than brand or model of seat.

Researchers encourage parents to take back-seat measurements and compare them to car  measurements, calling customer service if necessary to be sure it will fit properly. Another option is to ask the store manager if you can take the floor model out to your car to try it. Most stores will oblige. If they don’t, go to a store that will.

A goal of the study is help child car seat and vehicle manufacturers more fully understand compatibility of their products and, ultimately, help improve individual designs, said Julie Bing, lead author of the study.



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Christina Vercelletto


 Christina Vercelletto is a former editor at NYMetroParents, ParentingScholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her kids, a chiweenie, Pickles, and a 20-pound calico, Chub-Chub.

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