Objective: This paper examines two hazard patterns associated with in-home use and placement of car seats and baby carriers: 1) fall injuries resulting from placement on elevated surfaces and 2) suffocation resulting from seat overturn on soft surfaces.
Design: Emergency department data reporting on falls suffered by infants aged 6 months and younger, and associated with car seats and baby carriers, were provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for 1997. National estimates were based on 396 incidents. Additionally, 15 cases of suffocation resulting from car/infant seat overturn on soft surfaces were identified through the Commission's Death Certificate and Investigation Files.
Results: In 1997, it is estimated that approximately 8700 infants were treated in emergency departments as a result of fall injuries suffered while using a car seat or baby carrier. More than one third of estimated falls were specifically attributed to the seat being placed on an elevated surface in the home, such as a counter or table. A search of suffocation incidents resulting from seat overturn on a soft surface produced 15 incidents. The majority of incidents occurred when the seat had been placed on a bed or waterbed.
Conclusions: Many parents are unaware of hazards associated with common placement scenarios for infant car seats and baby carriers. These hazard patterns and their potential consequences need to be conveyed to new parents by pediatricians. At the same time, manufacturers have an obligation to pursue design alternatives that will reduce the likelihood of seat overturn.