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Car safety seat checks mark Passenger Safety Week

By Staff | Sep 27, 2017

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Kim Smith from PennDot and Chris Smith collected expired car seats and carriers on Tuesday, September 19 at the Burger King in Muncy Township.

MUNCY “Turn in your old seats,” said Kim Smith, safety coordinator for The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). She and Chris Smith were available behind the Burger King restaurant near the Lycoming Mall on Tuesday, September 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. to collect expired child safety car seats and inspect any that might be in question.

“We had a good turnout,” said Kim Smith who is a certified seat safety technician. Both women explained the vehicle code safety laws for children. The back seat is the safest place for children under the age of 13, and children under 4 feet 9 inches tall should be secured using a booster seat.

Often expiration dates are given on the back of the car seats and after six to 8 years they should be turned over or disposed, which is why PennDot holds car safety checks on a periodic basis throughout the county.

Both PennDot and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are encouraging motorists to take advantage of safety seat check resources across the state as the agencies mark National Child Passenger Safety Week from September 17 through September 23. Additionally, Saturday, September 23, had been designated as “National Seat Check Saturday.”

Burger King in Muncy Township offered to dispose the old car seats and over 24 were collected that day. Often they break down due to the seats being exposed to extreme temperatures, explained Chris Smith who was cutting the straps on each one. Some of them looked almost new but safety regulations kept them from passing inspection.

To advance their public-safety missions, the agencies invest in community resources across the state. PennDOT funds resources such as training and educational materials for more than 170 fitting stations across Pennsylvania. The PSP checked over 1,780 seats last year and found more than 870 misuses by drivers. The checkups are designed to teach proper installation and use of child safety seats. For example, a child wearing a safety seat belt must be at least 8 years of age or over 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Children ages 4 to 8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat.

Child passenger safety technicians are available year-round to help ensure that seats are suitable for use and installed properly according to the Pennsylvania State Police.

A Pennsylvania law went into effect August 2016 requiring a child under 2 years of age to be securely fastened in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system. This is to be used until the child outgrows the maximum weight and limits designated by the manufacturer.

If motorists are stopped for a traffic violation and are not wearing their seat belt, they can receive a second ticket and second fine.

Because of the potential dangers associated with air bag deployment, children ages 12 and under should always ride buckled in a vehicle’s back seat.

The State Police Bureau of Patrol also offers the following tips:

Read and follow the car seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions;

Use the car’s seat belt to anchor the seat to the car unless you are using a child safety seat with the LATCH system;

Fill out and return the registration card for your seat so you’ll know if it is recalled because of a problem;

Make sure the seat’s harness fits snugly; and

Use a tether strap if the seat requires it.

For more information on car seat safety and to get a list of state police car seat safety inspection locations and dates, click on the “Public Safety” link at www.psp.pa.gov. Another website to check is the ultimatecarseatguide.com. According to Kim Smith this is a customized tool that recommends a style of seats recommended for the child’s weight and height and even shows videos on how to install them.