Proper installation of car seats can mean the difference between life and death for children.
An estimated 46% of car seats and booster seats are, however, used incorrectly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those who want to ensure their car seats are tightly fastened and installed correctly will be able to do so from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Ardmore Fire Department.
The fire department has been hosting a car seat check event every month for the past five years in partnership with Safe Kids of Oklahoma, which hosts similar events across the state, said AFD Fire Marshall Tim Lee.
Around 15 fire fighters at the department are currently undergoing training to become certified car seat installers in preparation for this month’s event, Lee said.
To become certified, fire department personnel have to be trained on how to install four different types of car seats. At the end of the training an instructor observes them as they install the car seats on their own and administers a written test they must pass.
Every two years they do it all again in order to become re-certified, Lee said. “That way we stay current on all of our training.”
The large majority of car seats being checked during these events are improperly installed for one reason or another, Lee said.
“They’re usually loose — not being tightened down tight enough is the main thing,” Lee said. “Children have to be two years old, 30 pounds before we can turn them around, front facing. A lot of times we see kids that are turned around too young.”
Studies have shown that there can be damage caused to young children’s necks from turning their car seats around too early, Lee said.
Winter poses additional safety threats, as well. Big, bulky coats and blankets can cause children to come out of the car seat, Lee said.
Therefore, parents should make sure to place coats and blankets on top of their children, rather than having children wear winter clothes while in the car seat. “You always want to be sure and go that route with them,” Lee said.
Fire department personnel will have a recall list available at the car seat check event to make sure the car seat has not recently been recalled. Additionally, Lee said any car seat that has been involved in a wreck or has sustained any type of damage should be replaced.
New car seats will be available at the event for $10. Parents are required to bring their children with them to the event and are advised to leave their pets at home. “We prefer no animals. We’ve had a few instances with dogs getting aggressive because we’re handling the kids and stuff,” Lee said.
Anyone who hasn’t had their car seat checked recently is encouraged to come out as an extra safety precaution for their little ones.
“It’s extremely important,” Lee said. “We want our little ones to be safe when we travel and an improperly installed car seat, the children can come out of them and cause them more damage in the wreck if we’re not careful. We have to support their little necks and their necks aren’t 100 percent formed, so you have to be sure that’s supported properly.”