Community works together for car safety seat checks
HUGHESVILLE – It was a community wide effort last Wednesday morning at the Hughesville Fire Hall when the Hughesville Police Department, Safe Kids Lycoming County, the Hughesville Fire Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Community Traffic Safety Project came together to help parents and grandparents keep their children safe when riding in a registered vehicle.
According to Chris Smith from the Community Traffic Safety project who sponsored the program, the American Academy of Pediatrics most recently changed the guidelines and recommendations for car seats. “They now advise to keep infants and toddlers in rear-facing seats until age 2, or until they reach the highest height or weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer,” she announced. Previously the age was one year with or a weight of at least 22 pounds.
New reports reveal that children under the age of 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear facing. “We find many parents turn the car seats around way too soon,” said Tonya Welshans, Public Health Educator for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It is important to read the owner’s manual to see if the seat is safe and meets the requirements for the child. Parents need to look at the best fit. Usually the center of the back seat is the safest according to Jason Gill, Hughesville Chief of Police who inspected each vehicle closely. Chief Gill is only one of two certified safety seat technicians in Lycoming County who is trained to work one-on-one with parents, grandparents and guardians. At the end of May, he completed a 4 day training in Hershey to become certified which covers a two year period, he said.
Research shows that when facing the rear, the car seat does a better job supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in case of a crash. In this position, the force of the collision is distributed over the entire body. A child can leave a car seat or booster seat at 80 pounds or a height of 4 ft. 9 inches according to Smith. When they are 13, they can ride in the front seat. Age should not be a determination to be out of the seat.
Most seat checks take a minimum of 20 minutes and the child should be in the seat and parents need to have the manual with them for the inspection. Infant seats may take longer. “Sometimes we have to remove the car seat and destroy them if they are not meeting the new guidelines,” explained Nancy Yaudes from Safe Kids Lycoming. The seat should not wiggle, wobble or slide. “Keep it tight. There should be no more than an inch leeway on either side.”
“It is not advisable to buy used ones, especially at garage sales,” warns Yaudes as many parts could be defective or not up to the newest safety standards. “As a rule of thumb, we tell parents not to use one if it is older than six years,” Yaudes said.
Several inspections kept the crew busy all morning, mostly grandparents. “We talk to them about the law and best practices, and the safest way to ride,” said Chief Gill. Mandy Girven came in with her two daughters, Makenna, 6 and Audrey age 4. “I wanted to make sure that my daughters are riding the safest way possible in the van,” she said. As it turned out, one of the seats was defective and needed to be replaced. “Often these seats are recalled or expired,” Smith added. Three out four seats aren’t used correctly according to safecar.gov. “That’s why we’re here to help. There is so much to learn as a new parent,” Welshans said.
Also check the accessories that come with the car seats, advised the team. Some of these could be a projectile such as mirrors and window shades, and could come down and hit the child’s head.
To arrange a free child safety seat inspection, Chief Gill announced that an appointment can be made anytime by calling the Williamsport Bureau of Fire at 327-1602. The new policy was published April 2011 from the American Academy of Pediatrics and can be obtained at http://pediatrics.aappublications.og.