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Children's safety seat checkups offered Friday

July 22, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - If a child safety seat moves more than one inch from side to side, if the harness does not seem to fit properly or if parents simply want to ensure their child's seat is installed correctly, they can come to a clinic Friday.

Linda Heflin, assistant coordinator for the Eastern Panhandle Safe Community Program, said she has examined several child safety seats in people's cars.

"Most of the time, when they come in, they are not in correct," she said. "Mainly, it's normally not tight."

Friday afternoon, 15 people who are learning how to check child safety seats will check people's seats for free at the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department on W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg. Seats will be checked from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

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The program is mutually beneficial. Parents can have peace of mind and technicians can check a variety of different car seats inside a variety of different cars, Heflin said.

The 15 people are taking a 32-hour, four-day course. By the end they will be able to show others how to properly install a car seat. Participants include law enforcement personnel and people who work with children.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children, Heflin said.

"It's coming down since the child safety seat program started," she said.

West Virginia recently revised a law, which now says all children younger than 18 who are riding in a car's back seat must wear a seat belt. Also, police can pull over a car if a child who is 9 years old or younger is riding in a back seat without a seat belt, Heflin said.

Although a law requires that children 4 years old or younger or who weigh fewer than 40 pounds be in a child seat, that can be misleading. Heflin said she spoke with a woman whose 2-year-old child weighs about 40 pounds, meaning that child technically would not be required to be in a car seat.

"That seat belt will not fit that child," Heflin said. She advises parents to use common sense when deciding whether to place a child in a car seat.

Heflin said ideally enough people will come Friday for all participants in the course to check at least five seats. Parents who come should expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour, the time it can take to properly install a car seat, Heflin said.

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