Technicians to inspect child safety seats
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The little things parents do when strapping their child into a car could save that child's life in a crash.
Certified technicians will be on hand this week to check child safety seats in vehicles throughout West Virginia to ensure they are installed and being used properly.
It is part of national and state Child Passenger Safety Week, which is meant to call attention to and promote proper child safety seat usage.
Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Eight children under the age of 8 have been killed in West Virginia this year, said Bob Tipton, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. More than half were caused by improper restraints, he said.
"It's tragic, especially if it could have been prevented," Tipton said.
He said the Highway Safety office puts on training classes several times a year on the subject. The classes last about three days where certified instructors go over how to correctly install a car seat.
"It's not an easy thing to do," he said. "It's not a given that you can put it in just right.
"There's lots of little things that people don't do right."
Some of those little things involve making sure the seat base is secured tightly to the car seat, and that the seat's restraints are properly adjusted to keep the child firmly in the seat.
Tipton said it is more than just "throwing the car seat in."
"I've probably checked more than 10,000 car seats in my career," Tipton said. "Very seldom do you find one in 100 percent correct."
He said he's heard stories where children who weren't secured properly in the seat were ejected in a crash and also where the entire child seat was ejected.
A toddler was killed last month when his parents' vehicle crashed on Interstate 77 in Jackson County. The child seat was ejected with the toddler still inside when the vehicle rolled.
Other stories show how a child safety seat can save a child's life. Tipton pointed to a July incident in Pendleton County where a woman was thrown from her vehicle and killed but her child survived.
The woman and baby were missing for several hours when authorities heard the baby's cries and followed them to the scene of the crash. The baby was found unharmed and still restrained in the child safety seat.
He said interest in the classes has increased.
"Usually when we teach a class we ask at the beginning 'what do you think your abilities are in putting the seats in correctly?'" Tipton said. "The majority of them thought they knew what they were doing, but then they got home and saw what all they had done wrong on their own (seat).
"We know it makes a difference because now they're able to check everybody else's car seats."
Children under 8 are required to ride in safety or booster seats. If the child is under 8 but taller than 4-foot-nine, a seat belt is sufficient, according to state law.
Car seat checks will be available 2 to 5 p.m. today at the Scottish Rite Temple on Capitol Street in Charleston, 10 a.m. to noon Friday at the Clarksburg Walmart, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Vienna Walmart, Tridelphia Walmart and Beckley and Princeton fire departments, and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Assembly of God in Martinsburg.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.