Emergency responders take point on car seat safety

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By Don Steen ~ Staff Writer • reporter@psci.net

Several local emergency responders completed their training as car seat safety technicians last week, with some help from those who volunteered to have their rides checked out. A dozen vehicles with kids in tow made their way through the two-bay garage at the Spencer County Emergency Management Agency Monday afternoon to get their car seats inspected and adjusted if need be.

Kids briefly surrendered their seats in good spirits, allowing the inspectors to make sure everything was in order. The youngsters also submitted to being weighed and measured to ensure their car seats were still appropriate for their age and size, and installed accordingly. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a properly installed car seat reduces the risk of fatal injury to children substantially in the event of an accident. The reduction is particularly noted among infants, with the estimated risk falling more than 70%. Risk of fatal injury among toddlers falls by 54% when they are properly secured.

The above statistics reflect passenger vehicles such as cars or minivans. Light trucks pose a greater risk, but the NHTSA still finds a risk reduction of around 60% when car seats are used correctly. 

Children under the age of one should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. Toddlers should be kept in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, switching to forward-facing car seats with a harness and tether once they outgrow the height or weight limit. The NHTSA recommends children aged four to seven to use forward-facing car seats until they reach the weight limit of their car seats manufacturer instructions and then move to a booster seat. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that children in rural areas are typically at a higher risk of serious injury or death in a crash. From 2015 to 2019, death rates were 4.5 per 100,000 population compared to .9 in urban areas. A multi-state study suggests this discrepancy is due in part to a higher rate of children being incorrectly restrained, or not restrained at all. 

Spencer County emergency responders are doing their part to ensure that local families get the full benefit of car seats. Last week’s event saw nine individuals fully certified thanks to those who volunteered their vehicles to give them some hands-on experience. The newly certified car seat safety technicians include Austin Hagan, Allison Luker, Bo Anderson, Scott Lanman, Layla Thayer, Stephanie Melton, Tim Huber, Candie Richey, and Casey Thuerbach.

In addition, a dozen more vehicles on local roads have car seats personally inspected and installed to the highest standard. A total of 14 car seats were inspected and five were distributed.

Featured Image: Allison Luker chills out with Dakota Kraft as she measured his height during the car seat safety training

Working towards safer travel: (top left) Deputy Austin Hagan adjusts a car seat; (top center) everyone works together to learn more about car seat training; (top right) Stephanie Melton and Layla Thayer work together to inspect a car seat; (bottom) Heidi Marchand smiles as she is buckled up into a car seat