Press-Republican

May 14, 2013

Safety seat imperative for children

By JEFF MEYERS Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — For Trisha and Jamie Blaise of Plattsburgh, nothing is more important than protecting their two young children, Ayla, 4, and Keegan, 18 months.

The family participated in this year’s car-seat safety check Saturday as part of the region’s Law Enforcement Weekend held at Champlain Centre mall.

Trisha and Jamie were purposely there to make sure they had their child-protective car seats installed correctly in both family vehicles.

“We had a lot of trouble getting Keegan’s seat into Jamie’s car,” Trisha said as certified car-seat technicians worked on the seats in both her and Jamie’s vehicles. “We decided to have them check mine at the same time, make them both safe for our children.

“There’s a lot to know (in putting car seats into the back seat correctly),” she added. “Each seat is different; to be safe, it’s important to make sure (the seats are installed correctly).

“We know the children are much safer (with properly installed seats).”

INVOLVED PROCESS

Installing a child-protective car seat is a lot more complex than placing the item on the car’s backseat and then attaching the car’s seat belts once the child is put into place.

“I’d say that eight out of 10 seats are not properly installed,” said Mitch Carriere, traffic-safety specialist for Clinton County and a licensed car-seat-technician instructor. “There are always a lot of compatibility issues. (Child-protective) seats are not always compatible to a vehicle.”

If nothing else, parents should read both their car-seat manual and the automobile owner’s manual to make sure they have purchased a proper seat for their vehicle and to ensure they install the seat properly.

Car-seat checks performed by certified technicians help take away the guesswork for parents who may have some doubts about their ability to install the seats correctly.

“There is much more involved in this than I had ever imagined,” said Joann Morris, a registered nurse for the Essex County Health Department who recently received her certification to properly examine and install the seats.

“Every scenario is different technically. There are so many manufacturers, so many technologies.”

PROJECTILE OBJECTS

In her professional role as a child-health nurse, Morris knows firsthand of the importance of child safety in every aspect of caring for youngsters and especially when young children are passengers in moving vehicles.

“Everybody should be educated, not just about putting seats in correctly but also about making sure there is nothing else in the car that could be dangerous,” she said.

Even something as simple as a loose book in the car could become a devastating projectile in the case of an automobile accident.

“Anything not tied down is a hazard,” Carriere said. “If you multiply the weight of the object by the speed of the vehicle, that’s how hard that object will hit you.”

For instance, if an object weighs 10 pounds and the car is traveling 30 mph, that object will strike a person with the force of a 300-pound object, he explained.

NOT REUSABLE

Car seats are built for one-time-only service. For instance, when a child outgrows a car seat, the parent should not try to resell the seat in a yard sale or give the seat to a family member.

A seat that was involved in an accident should never be reused, Carriere added.

Clinton County actually recycles used car seats, he said.

Also, people who attend car-seat checks like Saturday’s event will receive a new car seat, free of charge, if technicians feel their original seats are unsafe.

Technicians also have an updated recall list that identifies seats that should no longer be used and that gives instructions on what kinds of adjustments need to be made to existing seats if they are safe.

Children should be placed in child-protective seats or booster seats until at least age 7. A properly fitted safety seat will provide a child with five points of contact with the harness while the seat belt alone offers only three points of contact, Carriere noted.

Experts are also recommending that children age 2 and younger be placed in rear-facing protective seats. The seat itself will provide much more protection in an accident than the straps alone, Carriere said.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com