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Objective—To determine the extent to which child restraint system (CRS) misuse can be evaluated by parental survey.
Methods—A cross sectional survey was conducted at eight CRS clinics from May to October, 1998. Before CRS inspection, parents were administered a structured interview to identify distinct characteristics of restraint use and misuse. After the interview, a certified child passenger safety technician team independently evaluated the restraint system and identified specific modes of misuse. Parent descriptions of CRS use were compared with observations of the technician and the degree of agreement between the two was assessed for several specific attributes of use.
Results—A total of 100 children restrained in convertible CRSs were included in the study. Parents were able to accurately report several aspects of child restraint use—in particular, the attachment and fit of the CRS, the use of the harness clip, and the CRS incline. Parents were less accurate in their characterization of the fit of the child in the CRS. For nearly every item assessed, parents were more accurate in their description of correct compared with incorrect use.
Conclusions—Interview tools can be developed that enable parents to describe aspects of CRS use and that screen for correct CRS use. These tools could be administered by telephone to obtain a more representative estimate of the prevalence of CRS misuse or to screen for CRS misuse. This screening would assist in targeting time consuming and costly CRS clinics to those parents who need them the most.