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Scary car-seat news affects nearly every baby in the country

Jeanne Sager is parenting and living editor for SheKnows. A photographer, social media junkie, and crazed mom to an even crazier kid, she's strung words together for TheStir.com, Babble.com, Parents, Kiwi Magazine, and others.

Almost every parent in the country has made this safety mistake... have you?

As if being a brand-new parent isn't stressful enough, new moms and dads can now add this bit of anxiety to the mix: A new study claims just about all of us are screwing up royally when it comes to car-seat safety.

How bad?

A whopping 95 percent of parents are leaving the hospital with a newborn in a car seat that's got some type of issue... be it installation or positioning of the baby in the seat. According to the study in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, an estimated 86 percent of new parents apparently position baby incorrectly in the car seat, while three quarters of us install the infant car seat improperly. Scarier still? Even parents who had sought out a certified car-seat expert had errors when they left the hospital.

More: This viral child-care instruction sheet is one only a new mom could write

So what can you do? Throw your hands up and say, hey, at least I'm not alone? Well, no.

Using a car seat (correctly) has been proven to reduce the risk for death in infants by 71 percent and toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54 percent. They really are a modern miracle.

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So here's a run-down on what can help:

1. When you visit a car-seat expert, take notes. Don't just nod along. Actually write it all down. And if you don't yet have a baby, practice with a doll, so they can check everything you're doing.

2. Because the most common mistakes were with the harness and chest clip, be especially careful to check the rules to ensure the clip is centered on baby's sternum, and perform the pinch test to ensure the straps are not too loose.

3. Read the darn manual! Another common error is setting the seat on an incorrect recline angle, something that can easily be rectified by following the manufacturer's instructions.

4. Don't use the LATCH system along with a seat belt. Double duty seems like it would be extra strong, right? Not according to the experts, who warn that using both will stress the seat differently than using just one. That can be dangerous in a crash.

More: Mom shares 'secret formula' for getting babies to sleep through the night

5. Don't beat yourself up. The fact that this is so common is proof positive that car-seat safety is tough stuff. What matters is that you care enough to get it right.

What car-seat mistake have you made?

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