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Five permanent checkpoints provide free car seat inspections

It’s back-to-school time for children throughout the region, and a new crop of five-year-olds are heading off to school.

Monday, September 10, 2001

It’s back-to-school time for children throughout the region, and a new crop of five-year-olds are heading off to school.

Reaching five years of age begins a new chapter in a child’s life and parents often feel their child is very grown up. But, it’s important to note that five-year-olds have not outgrown booster seats. Generally, they are not physically developed enough to ride in a vehicle without one, many safety organizations say.

Many state laws, including those of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, require that children ride in car seats until they are four years of age or they reach a weight of 40 pounds or a height of 40 inches. Most safety experts and organizations, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, recommend that children ride in booster seats until seven years of age or 70 pounds.

It is equally important that child safety seats for children of all ages be installed properly. Nationwide estimates reveal that as many as 95 percent of all child safety seats are installed improperly.

To assist parents and grandparents with this issue, the River Cities SAFE KIDS Coalition and the Southeast Ohio EMS District (SEOEMS) are partnering to offer permanent child safety checkpoints at each of the five SEOEMS stations in Lawrence County.

On pre-scheduled days, each station’s staff will conduct free child safety seat checks that are open to the public. Because the service is offered only on selected days and at selected times at each station, participants must make an appointment by calling 1-888-377-5362.

SEOEMS has committed seven employees, who are certified child passenger safety technicians, to this project.

At the checks, technicians will evaluate whether the child is riding in the proper type of seat by taking age and weight into consideration. They also will check to see if the seat being used has been recalled, and make sure each seat is installed properly.

During a safety seat check on Saturday, SEOEMS training coordinator Mary Jon Holtzapfel said the inspections often find faults in child seat installations.

"From January through the end of June, SEOEMS has performed 143 car seat checks and just today came across the fourth one that was installed correctly," Holtzapfel said Saturday.

SEOEMS did 22 car seat checks Saturday which Holtzapfel said was, "pretty good for a three-hour event."

The inspections take about 30 minutes per seat and are conducted by certified child safety seat technicians. It is required that the child, vehicle and car seat be present at the time of the inspection.

The majority of all problems can be corrected with some minor adjustments and parental education, Holtzapfel said.

Out of the 22 car seats inspected Saturday, only one was installed correctly, Holtzapfel said. The rest either needed adjusted or replaced.

"Statistics say 99 percent of car seats are incorrectly installed or the incorrect seat is used for the size of a child," Holtzapfel said. "People need to be aware that these checks are available and it is important they attend."

If you need to schedule an appointment with SEOEMS please call 1-888-377-5362.