Britney Spears' Latest Parenting Mishap

ByABC News via logo
May 17, 2006, 8:50 AM

May 17, 2006 — -- In the latest Britney Spears brouhaha, her 8-month-old son, Sean Preston, was spotted in the back of her convertible.

The problem: The car seat was facing front and, although she was apparently in compliance with California law, federal safety guidelines say that small babies should be placed in seats that face rear. Now new allegations of bad parenting are again haunting the pop diva.

But some parents are coming to the young mom's defense because they say that car seats are tricky to install the right way.

Others, however, say that Spears acted thoughtlessly.

"I think she's got a million people working for her that can tell her what's safe and what isn't," said Leigh Cote, the mother of 19-month-old Laney. "And if you don't know, then maybe you should, you know, read the instructions that come on the box of the car seat."

Spears' publicist Leslie Sloane Zelnik told The Associated Press that Spears was in "total compliance" with California state law.

In a statement, Zelnik said that California Vehicle Code 27360 requires "all children under the age of 6 or weighing less than 60 pounds be in safety seats in the back seat of the car. Having a child in the child safety seat facing forward in the rear seat of the car is in compliance with California law."

Federal safety guidelines, however, recommend that children under 20 pounds ride in car seats that face rear.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshal told the AP that California code contained "a bit of a gray area" in regards to car seats.

"The vehicle code doesn't say you have to have the baby seat in a rear-facing position," but does require drivers to follow federal guidelines, he told the AP.

In February, an image of Spears, 24, driving on a Malibu highway with Sean on her lap brought Child Protective Services to her home. There were also reports of her baby sustaining a head injury after the nanny dropped him while taking him out of his high chair. After both of those incidents, critics slammed Spears' parenting. This time, however, some seem to be on her side.

"I think we're human. We all make mistakes. But we need to live our lives like as if there was somebody watching over our shoulder," Jessica Edgington said.

Perhaps Spears is receiving sympathy because many other parents have difficulty getting the car seat in correctly.

Don Mays, a product safety director for Consumer Reports, said that "as many as 80 percent of the seats out there are not either used properly or installed properly."

Last month, ABC's "20/20" watched as car seats were being inspected. Paul and Kelly Snisky had purchased 15 cars seats over the years but had struggled to install a new one. It took 15 minutes for Paul Snisky to install the car seat and booster, but he did it incorrectly.

"I opened up the directions, and it said you're supposed to screw in the arm, and I never thought of screwing in the arm," he said. "It looked like all the pieces snapped together, and generally I consider that a success."

While the latest Spears incident made tabloid headlines, many observers viewed it as a cautionary tale.