Child Passenger Safety Technician Chelsea White conducts a car seat safety inspection and installation at the Seguin Police Department. Call the department at 830-379-2123 to schedule an appointment.
(Seguin) -- Parents love their children, and will do almost anything to keep them safe. It's difficult to argue that statement, except for when it comes to the issue of child safety seats. Because there's a good chance that your child's car seat is inproperly installed, it's the wrong size, or you've allowed them to graduate from their car or booster seats long before their bodies were ready. The tone of those words may seen a little harsh. They are not meant to be. Instead, it's meant to point out that data shows that most car seats are being installed or used inproperly. That's the bad news, but the good news is that there is a way to make sure you're doing it right, and that your children are getting the maximum benefit from their car or booster seats. Officials at the Seguin Police Department are offering a free service, where they will inspect and make sure that your child's car seat is installed correctly.
Staci Sanchez is one of the child passenger safety technicians at the police department. She says it's important for anyone who transports a child, to make sure that they have the seats installed in a way that actually provides protection for the children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says "the most dangerous thing that U.S. children do as part of daily life is ride in a car."
Sanchez says that is part of the reason why the Seguin PD offers this free, yet very important service.
"Currently, it's still the leading cause of death for children, from one to 13. So we definitely want to prevent a child's death," said Sanchez.
The need to have children properly restrained in a vehicle is nothing new, but there's a new push to make sure that parents and others have all the support that they need to make sure that the correct safety devices are being used, and that they are installed properly.
"We have this knowledge. It's out there. We're told from the beginning, when you have a child, you've got to have that car seat in. It applies up untiil they are at least 13, which most people -- quite honestly -- forget about. They think that once the child is tall enough to be in the backseat without a booster seat, they kind of just let it go, but that's actually incorrect. The child needs to be in the seat properly with the seat belt going across their chest correctly. Otherwise, that could cause numerous injuries for the child," said Sanchez.
IS YOUR CHILD'S CAR SEAT INSTALLED PROPERLY?
The Seguin Police Department is doing its part to make sure that child safety seats are properly installed. Chelsea White, a child passenger safety technician at the SPD, recently conducted a safety inspection and installation for a local resident. Parents, grandparents, and other guardians can make an appointment at the police deparment to make sure that your child's seat is the right size and type, and that it is properly installed. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines on the use of child safety seats. Here are the group's evidence-based recommendations:
- Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4.
- Once they have been turned around, children should remain in a forward-facing car safety seatup to that seat's weight and length limits. Most seats can accommodate children up to 60 pounds or more.
- When they exceed these limits, child passengers should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they can use a seat belt that fits correctly.
- Once they exceed the booster limits and are large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use a lap and shoulder belt.
- All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.
Experts, like Sanchez, say parents shouldn't be discouraged by this kind of discussion. Even if you read the instructions, it's best to double check to make sure that the seats are properly installed. If they are not, Sanchez and others can help you get them set up correctly. Sanchez says she knows just how difficult it can be for parents and grandparents to get it right, particularly the first time you set up your new seat.
"Before I became a technician, I can tell you honestly...I had mine installed incorrectly also. I mean, we read through those manuals like crazy. We do the best that we can. Most people I can honestly say do the best that they can, but when you get down to it, it's got to be in there set and correct. Otherwise, you can have these issues where you child falls out (of the seat). You can have a child take themselves out, which, of course, we don't want that to happen either," said Sanchez.
The police department's push to have all children in Seguin properly restrained isn't just about babies and little kids. Sanchez says parents need to make sure that the bigger kids, which could include some kids up to middle-school age, are in a proper seat as well. She says parents often remove those booster seats long before their older kids are physically ready to ride without them.
"Most children aren't going to reach that height requirement to have the belt fall through on their shoulder correctly. That's the purpose of the booster seat, to get them up at that level. So that way they are not putting it around behind them, and it's not hitting them on the neck. If the parent brakes suddenly, we don't want that to cause a burn on their skin. It's just a whole lot better (for them). There are more seats that are out there and available for purchase that the child can fit into given their size at that age. Definitely up to 12-years old, you do want them in that booster seat if they don't reach the height of at least four-foot, nine-(inches). I believe that's when it starts that they shoulder belt will go across properly without a booster seat," said Sanchez.
Sanchez says they have made it easy for parents, grandparents and others to get the inspections done. She says it only takes a few minutes and they'll make sure that the seats are ready to go, and that all the kids in our community stay safe.
"We currently do them by appointment only. They would call us here, and then we would set up a time with them. They'll come in with their car seat, and their child if possible. That would be great if they brought the child with them. They just fill out a short form. We go go out there and we actually explain to the guardian how to properly install that car seat into the vehicle. (We'll show them) what's going to be the best position, (and) what's going to be the best location of the seat depending on the child's size and weight," said Sanchez.
Appointments for child car seat inspections can be made by calling the Seguin Police Department's non-emergency number at 830-379-2123. Sanchez and fellow technician, Chelsea White, handle the insepctions, and they are eager to work with local parents to make sure that kids in Seguin stay safe while they are out on the road.
In addition to the free service offered by the police department, there are a number of online resources also available to parents, including a "car seat finder" feature offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (https://tinyurl.com/car-seat-finder). Parents can also get car seat advice from their child's pediatrician or your family physician.