Seats that keep babies safe in the car can pose a hazard outside the vehicle

Consumer Reports News: October 23, 2009 01:14 PM

Car seats have saved the lives of countless children but recent research shows that thousands of babies are injured each year when those same car seats are used improperly outside the vehicle.

Between 2003 and 2007, more than 43,000 infants in the U.S. required emergency room treatment after falling in car seats that were improperly placed on tables, counters and other elevated surfaces. Accidents were also reported after seats rolled over on soft surfaces, such as beds and sofas, according to the study's author Dr. Shital Parikh, a pediatric orthopaedist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"In our hospital, we saw some fractures caused by these falls, and decided it was probably a wider problem," said Parikh, who presented his study at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "These injuries are not common compared with some other causes, but they are significant enough to take notice."

Parikh said that three babies died during the five-year period of the study. Head injuries were the most common, followed by fractures and dislocations. Most of the accident victims were younger than four months old. Parikh based the findings on data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

He recommends that car seats be used only in cars and that children be taken out of the seats as soon as parents reach their destination.

Booster seats
In related news, researches reaffirmed recently that using booster seats significantly reduces the risk to children 4 to 8 years old when they are involved in a car accident. Seats without backs were just as protective as seats with.

We've noted in earlier posts that the seat belts in cars are made for average-sized adults, not children, and that children should graduate to a booster seat when they outgrow their harness-type car seat. That way the lap and shoulder belts are properly positioned.

In the study, researchers looked at 7,151 children who were involved in a total of 6,591 accidents. Thirty percent of the children were strapped into booster seats. Those children suffered half the injury risk, according to Dr. Kristy Arbogast of the Center for Injury Research and Prevents at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

Based on their findings, the researchers said that using booster seats represents a "best practice." Booster seats are now required in 47 states although, as we reported in September, laws governing age, height and weight parameters for booster seats vary from state to state.

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