UVM Medical Center participates in virtual car seat check study

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 8:21 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital wants to figure out whether virtual car seat appointments are as effective as in-person ones. Researchers have launched a new study that will be going on over the next few years that they hope will provide valuable information.

“It’s a piece of safety equipment and if it’s not being used correctly, it’s not protecting the child as it should be,” said Abby Beerman, an injury prevention coordinator with the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Beerman says she understands car seats can sometimes be confusing.

“It can be very difficult for a parent to know if they have installed it correctly,” she said.

The UVM Medical Center is helping the University of Alabama in a study on remote safe seat installation training.

“Actually evaluate if a virtual technician is as effective as an in-person tech at assisting parents and caregivers in the proper installation and use of their car seat,” said Maureen Johnson, a child passenger safety specialist with UVMMC.

Johnson says studies show 60% of car seats are not being used correctly, so it’s a widespread issue.

Colchester Police Cpl. Jaime Bressler, a certified car seat tech, says it’s never worth risking your child’s safety because you think you got it right.

“For the parents that feel as though they have it under control and they have a handle on it, we have inspections. And we say ‘inspections’ because we really want parents and caregivers to try it on their own first. Then, they come to us and then we inspect it to make sure it’s OK. And if it’s not, we explain to them what could be better what would be better practice for them. So, some of them aren’t wrong but there are things they could be doing better,” Bressler said.

The study had to be suspended because of COVID-19, but is running again. It focuses on the retention of knowledge gained. Johnson says despite being thrust into a virtual world because of the pandemic, it can have benefits like virtual training and that a big part of the research is spreading access to those that otherwise might not have it.

“In rural parts of the country or just due to parents and caregivers having busy schedules or busy lives, it may not be possible to get to a fitting station or what they call an inspection station,” said Johnson.

“That’s all we are looking for -- is we want those kids to be safer when they leave than when they show up,” Bressler said.

She says the Colchester department just recently began checking seats again. With a study like this, she sees increased access to seat safety, but says regardless of how the education gets out, it’s better if it’s spreading.

“The fruits of our labor is that we can provide a proactive service to them, so later as we respond to crashes we are seeing less injuries, especially to our little ones,” Bressler said.

The study is still looking for participants and officials say you could earn a $50 gift card for taking part.

Click here for a full list of car seat fitting stations in Vermont.

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