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Officials make sure kids' car seats are safe and secure

Parents receive help with installation in vehicles

POSTED: February 24, 2014 10:27 a.m.

Correctly installing a child car seat can be a confusing task. Complicated tether systems, adjustable parts and convertible booster seats are sometimes difficult to understand and often lead to misuse, which can put children in danger.

“About 96 percent of these seats we check in Hall County are installed incorrectly,” said Kim Martin, coalition coordinator for Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County. “Most of the time it’s minor misuse, but sometimes it’s multiple misuses or gross misuse.

“A lot of it is user confusion. Technology with car seats and vehicles change rapidly over the years and sometimes it is confusing.”

To combat user confusion, Safe Kids regularly partners with local and state law enforcement, fire departments and the Northeast Georgia Medical Center to provide car seat educational events and free car seats to parents in need in Hall County. Safe Kids is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of accidental injuries in children.

“We primarily focus on education rather than enforcement,” said trooper David Snyder of the Georgia State Patrol’s Safety Education Unit. “We’re not there to write tickets, we’re there to educate and make sure the seats are installed correctly.

“It all comes down to injury prevention.”

One of the main focuses of Safe Kids is vehicle and car seat safety, with good reason because motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause death among children between the ages of 1 and 14, Martin said.

Infants and young children often have larger heads compared to the rest of their body and weaker muscles in their necks, making them especially vulnerable to whiplash and spinal injuries in a car accident.

“It’s a like a bowling ball on a stick,” Martin said. “You got a big heavy head on a small body and crash-force dynamics come into play depending on the direction the seat is facing.”

Alejandra Delgado, who attended a Safe Kids car seat educational class Friday, was surprised at how the rules have changed over the years.

“Now they say not to turn the car seat around until the kids are 2 years old, and it wasn’t that way with my older children,” said Delgado, a mother of four boys ranging from 1 to 8 years old.

Safe Kids partnered with the Hall County Fire Department, Georgia State Patrol, the medical center’s Emergency Services department and the county Sheriff’s Office to educate 25 participating parents and distribute 28 free car seats Friday.

Keishla Torres, an expectant mother of twins, said while she knew what to expect from the class, it was nice to have inspectors help her install the seat correctly.

One of the most common car seat mistakes is turning a child’s seat to face forward or transferring them to a booster seat too soon.

Infants and young children are required by law to sit in rear-facing car seats to help prevent neck injuries in the event of a car accident. Children must be 12 months old and weigh at least 20 pounds before they can be placed in a forward-facing seat. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing seats until they are 2 years old or reach the maximum height and weight requirements for their seat.

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found children younger than 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.

“It’s just extra protection to keep them rear-facing,” Martin said.

Another common mistake is using both a car’s seat belt and the safety seat’s built-in anchors to secure it. Many people assume because a car seat is made to utilize both, then using both is safer. However, car seats only undergo crash testing with each method used individually, not at the same time, Martin said. The seat may not be made to handle that many different points of tension in the event of a wreck.

Martin said both methods are equally safe when used individually, but the anchors have a maximum weight capacity of 65 pounds, including the weight of the car seat while the seat belt has no such requirement.

For more information visit the Safe Kids website at www.safekidsgainesvillehall.org or contact Safe Kids at 770-219-8095, the Georgia State Patrol at 770-535-6951 or the Hall County Sheriff’s Office at 770-531-6889.


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