Archive for Tuesday, June 8, 1999

CAR SEAT MISUSE IS EPIDEMIC, BUT LOCAL CHECKUPS OFFER CURE

June 8, 1999

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Getting your child's car safety seat installed properly can be something of a challenge; Douglas County SAFE KIDS Coalition is offering some help.

If you're the parent of a young child, a potentially dangerous situation could exist in your car's back seat without you even knowing it.

According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, four of five child's car seats are incorrectly installed. That could mean potentially dangerous consequences for the children riding in them.

Those figures hold locally, too.

At the last several car-seat checks the Douglas County SAFE KIDS Coalition has held, as many as 95 percent of seats checked weren't installed properly.

"And these are the people that care," said Heidi Oberrieder, coordinator for the Douglas County coalition.

The coalition, Dale Willey Automotive and the Lawrence Breakfast Optimists are sponsoring a car-seat checkup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Dale Willey Automotive, 2840 Iowa, to ensure people are using the seats correctly.

After hearing how many car seats are misused, Jean Munsch asked Oberrieder, a neighbor, to see if the car seat for Munsch's 17-month-old son, Trevor, was properly installed.

"There were a couple things that we were doing wrong," Munsch said, even though she had read the manual.

When parents put seats in incorrectly, little missteps usually don't seriously undermine the seat's effectiveness, Oberrieder said. The most common mistakes are not getting the seat in tightly enough and not having harness straps snug enough.

But in a few cases, mistakes can cause real problems.

"There's lots of little details you can miss," Munsch said.

Though she had read the seat's manual, she hadn't read her vehicle manual.

Reading both manuals is "vital to doing it right," Oberrieder said, because there are more than 100 kinds of car seats and 300 different kinds of vehicles.

Munsch encourages parents to get the seats checked.

At car-seat safety checks, trained technicians examine the seats for correct installation and advise changes, if needed.

They also check all car seats to see if the models have been recalled for any reason.

"We show them the things that can be done differently. ... We expect the parent to install it before they leave," Oberrieder said.

Getting the seat just right can take awhile.

"It's time-consuming," Munsch said. "It could take a good half-hour to get it in right."

Now that she knows how to use the seat correctly, Munsch is passing that information on to others with whom her children ride.

"I taught my sister," she said. "That was a major concern for me."

Even a misused car seat is better than none at all, Oberrieder said. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading killers of children.

"It's even higher than illness," she said.

The accidents involving children are always hard to work, Sgt. Mark Bruce with the Kansas Highway Patrol said, especially when "a death or injury occurred simply because a parent or adult didn't take the time to see that the child was properly strapped in."

"It's for the most part senseless. ... If they're there in a child safety seat or a seat belt, their chances of dying in a crash are drastically reduced," he said.

Properly used car seats can reduce a child's risk of serious injury -- up to 70 percent for infants, Oberrieder said.

"They work; it's going to save that child," she said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.



CHILDREN ON BOARD?

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign offers several tips to ensure children are safe in vehicles:

  • Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger-side air bag.
  • Send in the car seat registration card so you can be notified if the car seat is recalled by the maker.
  • Never use a car seat that has been in a crash.
  • Route the safety belt correctly through the car seat.
  • Correctly buckle the car seat into the vehicle.
  • Get a tight fit -- the seat should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or toward the front of the vehicle.
  • Check your vehicle owner's manual to see if you need a locking clip to secure the car seat.
  • Infants less than a year old or under 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children between ages 4 and 8 should be in a booster seat.
  • Children who weigh more than 80 pounds and can sit with their knees bent over the edge of the seat without slouching may use a lap/shoulder belt.

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