Photo Courtesy Rhonda Jenkins

My mother-in-law insisted on installing the car seat, but I later found the manual untouched and unopened in its plastic packaging. How can we ensure our baby will be properly secured while in our vehicle?

Turns out this isn’t a conundrum to ignore out of deference, says Ben Hoffman, M.D., CPST-I, F.A.A.P., medical director at OHSU Doernbecher’s Tom Sargent Safety Center. “We know that more than 95% of people make at least one important mistake when installing car safety seats for children,” says Dr. Hoffman. “This can happen even when a manual is used. Mistakes such as misuse of the seat’s harness strap, or incorrect recline angles of the seat, are common because the reality is: car safety seat installation can be extremely complicated and frustrating.” Even if the manual can be located, the level of clarity of the instructions can vary widely. “Unfortunately, while these installation mistakes may seem minor, they can have a major impact on how the safety seat performs,” Dr. Hoffman says. “Should an auto collision occur, even the slightest twist in a harness or seat belt strap could increase the risk of severe injury or death of a child.” 

So, what to do? Short of quitting your job and hoofing your baby around town in a carrier, “Scheduling an appointment with a certified child passenger safety technician at the OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center is the best way to ensure your safety seat is installed properly,” Dr. Hoffman says. Booking an appointment is also an opportunity for you to learn how to properly install safety seats on your own in the future, says Dr. Hoffman — information you can retain for when you yourself are a mother-in-law installing your grandchild’s space seats in an electric hovercraft someday.

Pro tip: For those whose location may make it difficult to travel to Southwest Portland, Randall Children’s Hospital offers free virtual car seat education sessions via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Call 503-413-4005.

Kat Merck
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