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CRS helps prevent tragedy with car seat installations

January 20, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Workers at Community Rescue Service help save lives by installing about 700 car seats a year for new and old parents.

In August 2001, full-time CRS staff took a four-day Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program after noticing more parents reaching out to CRS for help with installing car seats.

CRS Chief Operating Officer Christopher N. Amos said the number of parents coming to CRS increased once Washington County Hospital started requiring parents to have a car seat properly installed before allowing newborn babies to leave the hospital.

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"We want to make sure a child leaves safer than they came," he said.

A lot of people who come to CRS for one of its child safety seat checklists are surprised to find out they've had their car seat improperly installed, he said.

CRS Lt. Pattie Singleton, 27, said she can tell if seats are improperly installed if they are not tilted at the right angle for infants - 35 to 45 degrees - do not have harness clips at the armpit level and are not secure enough to the seat of the car. Sometimes children are in front-facing car seats when they should still be in rear-facing styles.

"A lot of people come in and think if the child's feet are touching the seat then they need to be turned around," Singleton said.

She said children must face the rear of the car if they are younger than 1 year old or weigh less than 20 pounds.

The weight of infants' heads make them more susceptible to injury or death if the seat is not angled at 35 to 45 degrees, she said. Otherwise, serious neck injuries may occur or their airway could be blocked, she said.

Anchors, which are featured on most newer cars for car seat placement, also need to be checked to ensure that the tethers attached to them are secure enough.

"Mistakes could be really tragic if they're not properly installed," Amos said.

Singleton said there are so many makes and models of cars that often she and her co-workers find themselves skimming through manuals to make sure they have the proper fit.

Amos said people need to realize that CRS workers' first priority is to respond to rescue calls and they might not always be immediately available to install a seat. He said the best times to go to CRS for car seat help are between 10 a.m. and noon and from 7 to 9 p.m.

Car seats more than seven years old and those that have been involved in a crash need to be thrown out.

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