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Law agencies push booster seat safety
Todays Safe Kids event to include distribution, education
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Booster seat distribution

What: Ahead of a new law that takes effect Friday requiring booster seats for kids up to age 8, the Gainesville Police Department, Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety and Safe Kids Gainesville-Hall County will be handing out free booster seats and demonstrating how to properly install child safety seats
When: 3-5 p.m. today
Where: Gainesville Police Department, 701 Queen City Parkway, Gainesville

Gainesville Police see a lot of misuse with child-safety and booster seats. In fact, Sgt. Dean Staples, who leads the traffic unit, estimated 95 percent of seats they check are not installed correctly.

They're hoping, along with Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County, to fix that problem, especially as a new law takes effect Friday requiring children up to age 8 use a booster seat unless they are at least 4-foot, 9-inches tall.

"Seat belt systems and restraint systems in vehicles are built for an adult that is at least 4-foot, 9-inches tall," said Kim Martin, Safe Kids coalition coordinator.

"It's going to allow proper placement of the lap shoulder belt, which is crucial with children. Because too many times we see younger children, even as young as 4, in lap shoulder belts without booster seats, and they're way too small."

Today, police, Safe Kids and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, will hand out 100 booster seats for children ages 5 to 8 on a first-come, first-served basis at the Gainesville Police Department on Queen City Parkway.

Children must be present at the event so they can be measured and weighed to ensure they get the right kind of seat. Caregivers must participate in a short educational program to receive a booster seat.

Without that booster seat, seat belts will cross at the stomach and neck.

"We see a lot of what we see seat belt syndrome injuries," Martin said, "where they're having lacerated intestines and livers and those internal organs because of the improperly placed belt because they're too small."

When seated correctly, a lap belt should cross at the lower hip and upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should cross at the shoulder bone. The bones are the strongest part of the body, thus a seat belt placed there will reduce the risk of injury in a crash, Martin said.

Staples said police will sometimes see children not secured at all.

"We might even just see the fact that a child is standing up in the backseat or a lot of times we'll see them popping around from one side of the car to another," he said.

Sometimes, though, an officer will stop a car and notice a seat is not installed properly.

"We'll take the time on the side of the road to work with the parents to get it installed correctly to make sure that child is safe," he said.

The event, set for 3-5 p.m., offers parents that guidance without being pulled over.

Officials will check car seats and booster seats for proper installation, in addition to handing out the booster seats. Booster seats can also be bought at major retailers.