More often than not, when Tiffany Jackson looks at a child car seat, it is not properly installed.
“Typically we see four out of five seats installed incorrectly,” said Jackson, an environmental health specialist with the Effingham County Health Department.
As part of National Child Passenger Safety Week, the health department teamed with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and Rincon Police Department last Thursday to offer free child seat inspections. For four hours, parents could drop by the Rincon Walmart and have experts check out the seats responsible for protecting their children.
“These are great opportunities for people in the community,” Jackson said. “They can come in without the risk of getting a ticket and get educated and get some materials. Then we can show them how to install the seat properly.”
Jackson said the safety checks in Rincon yielded the common child seat mistakes she sees, such as not having the seat belt fully locked or having an improper seat for the age and size of the child.
Sgt. Brian Mundy also is familiar with those mistakes. However, as the head of the ECSO’s Traffic Enforcement Unit, he sometimes sees much more dire consequences.
“The sad thing about it is, an improperly-installed car seat is just as bad as not having one at all. It subjects the child to more injury,” Mundy said.
Mundy pointed to a recent car accident on McCall Road, in which a young child who was not properly restrained “flew forward” after his mother lost control of her car and hit a culvert. Fortunately, the child, only about 6 months old, was not seriously injured.
“They had the child forward-facing and not buckled in, and at that age they should be rear-facing and buckled,” Mundy said. “The mom was hurt worse than the baby. But, still, if the seat had been properly installed, there would have been no injuries to the child.”
Avoiding a mistake like that is why Lori Ann McEwen stopped in for a safety seat check. ECSO Deputy Andrae Wright showed McEwen the proper way to have her 6-month-old daughter Gabby secured in a child seat, and then had McEwen do it herself.
“I’m a first-time mom, and I really don’t know,” McEwen said, adding that she learned “to make sure the straps are tighter than I had them.”
Along with endangering a child, drivers who violate the safety seat law could also get hit in the wallet. The first ticket results in a $50 fine and one-point driver’s license penalty, and second and subsequent violations bring a $100 fine and one driver’s license point.
That can be avoided, Mundy said, because county residents can call the ECSO anytime to arrange a car seat installation lesson. A deputy from the Traffic Enforcement Unit will give the demonstration at the person’s house, or any location.
“I’ll meet you in a parking lot” if it means teaching someone child seat safety, Mundy said.
In addition, the health department has a grant-funded program to offer child seats to low-income families. Parents who qualify must participate in a child safety seat course the health department offers each month.
For more information, call the Effingham County Health Department at 754-6484 or visit their office at 802 Highway 119 South in Springfield.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in Georgia and across the country.