Hospital to inspect child seats

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 13, 2006

At first glance, child safety seats seem simply enough. You just drop the child in, buckle them up and everything is set.

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. When using a child safety seat, there are several things people should be aware of that may not be easy to spot. As part of Child Passenger Safety Week (Feb. 12-18), the HealthStart Program at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital will conduct a free child safety seat inspection in conjunction with the Demopolis Police Department on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Demopolis.

Healthstart Supervisor Stacey Wilson said they would have three certified Child Passenger Seat Technicians on hand to inspect the seats. She said since the program began, people have often been surprised their seats were not property installed.

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“Over the past 3 years we have installed over 300 seats,” Wilson said. “Out of these, we have found two that were installed correctly.”

The police department also plans to have an expert on hand. Demopolis Director of Public Safety Jeff Manuel said Monica Oliver, their seat belt technician, will also attend.

Proper use of child safety seats, Manuel said, was something his department does not take lightly.

“It is important for parents to understand that they have got to have their children in the proper child restraints,” Manuel said. “Sometimes people think that law enforcement is picking on then, but e just want to make sure parents are responsible enough to have their children in safety seats.”

Motor Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 3 to14 according to the National Center for Health Statistics. However, a properly installed car seat can increase a child’s survival of a crash as much as 90 percent.

A common misconception among parents is their children can go straight from car seats to seatbelts. But, once toddlers outgrow their original car seats, they should then move into a booster seat.

According to NHTSA, all infants should ride in a rear-facing child safety seat until they are at least one year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. Toddlers between 20 and about 40 pounds should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness.

Once a child has outgrown a forward-facing child safety seat, a child should be restrained in a booster seat until they are at least 8 years old, unless the child is taller than 4’9″. Safety belts are not designed to fit smaller children and booster seats remedy that problem by positioning the belt where it is most effective.

Proper use of safety restraints is extremely important because of a child’s fragile condition.

Children are more likely to be injured in a car crash because they have softer bones, weaker neck muscles and larger and heavier heads in proportion to their bodies, and more fragile bodies.

These statistics, and proper installation are exactly what the program hopes to teach. Wilson said in past years, attendance could have been better. This year, they hope to help as many people as they can.

“In past years, things have been kind of slow,” Wilson said. “I think we have averaged about 10 or 15 seats in the four hour period. We would definitely like to increase those numbers.”

Anyone who cannot attend the safety seat inspection on Wednesday is encouraged to contact the HealthStart Program at 287-2675 or toll free at 1-888-531-6262 to schedule an individual appointment for a free inspection.

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