Ill-fitting car seat risk

The safest car seat money can buy still poses a safety risk if it doesn’t fit properly in a vehicle and the problem is prevalent, according to a recent study by The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

“I couldn’t believe that the car seat we had purchased wouldn’t work in our car. I thought we had a standard car that pretty much any car seat would work,” said new mother Megan Murphy, who purchased a highly-rated, higher-priced car seat, only to realize it didn’t fit when she went to install it.

Forty-two percent of the time the car seats do not align properly with the vehicle seats, according to the study published this month in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

Researchers tested 59 cars seats in 61 vehicles for a total of nearly 3,600 unique car seat/vehicle combinations, and measured the angle of the back seats, their width and the headrests.

The results showed that an object needed to be placed under the car seat to tip it back to the proper angle 35 percent of the time.

Murphy said she was among that 35 percent.

She said she considered wedging a rolled-up towel under the seat, before deciding to use a common toy, a pool noodle, instead.

“The recommendation we got was the noodle. I have to say I never felt 100 percent secure, because it moved a little bit more,” said Murphy of Hilliard.

Lead author of the study, Julie Bing, is urging parents to make sure the angles of the vehicle seat and the child car seat align.

Parents should measure the car seat and the inside of the vehicle to ensure a good fit, Bing said.

“We recommend parents go to the store and ask if they can take the model off the shelf and go out to their car and try it. It might look great on the shelf and have the greatest safety ratings, but if it doesn’t fit in your vehicle it may not be the best option for you,” Bing said.

Murphy said she agrees.

“You just assume that any car seat is going to work in any car. We certainly found out multiple car seats later, that we almost had to try the car out on the car seat and vice versa, to make sure that it was going to work,” Murphy said.

Another goal of the study is to share the data with vehicle and car seat manufacturers to help improve designs, Bing said.