Fortville officer certified to conduct car seat inspections

GREENFIELD — A couple of buckles not snapped in place, a harness fitted too loosely — just a few missteps installing a child’s car seat can make all the difference in an accident, police say.

The Fortville Police Department has begun offering certified car seat installation inspections in an effort to expand child-safety efforts in the county. Studies show more than half of car seats are installed incorrectly, something police officers know all too well as some of the first-responders on the scene of a crash where children are sometimes injured unnecessarily.

Fortville police officer Matt Fox recently attended a four-day certification seminar in Fishers to become a child passenger safety technician — the first police officer in the county to receiving such a qualification — and can now meet with county parents one on one to educate them on how to properly secure children of all ages in a car.

More than 59 percent of caregivers improperly install car seats, a survey conducted last year by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration found. Such misuse can lead to injury or death should the child be involved in a car accident — the leading cause of death among children in the United States, national statistics show.

When used properly, however, a car seat or booster seat reduces an infant’s risk of death in an accident by 71 percent and a toddler’s by 54 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hancock Regional Hospital offers a similar program in Greenfield, but adding Fox to the mix gives residents in the northern portion of the county the same resource closer to home, Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer said.

Fox said he became interested in becoming a child passenger safety technician after his patrols of the area put him in contact with one too many drivers whose children weren’t properly secured.

He sees offering the inspections to com- munity members as a proactive step toward eliminating a common problem and keeping local children safe.

The training Fox attended gave him a complete understanding of the height and weight recommendations for car seats and best practices for installing them, he said. Now, he’s the departments go-to resource for recall lists, car seat expiration dates, other possible defects and any changes in state law.

Fox can meet with parents by appointment across the county, not just those living in Fortville, Knauer added.

The appointments are free to the public and can be made by calling the police department. Inspections typically last 30 minutes, Fox said.

Hancock Regional Hospital’s program in Greenfield has been offered since 2010, said nurse Linda Garrity, the facility’s community education coordinator.

Last year, about 150 caregivers visited the hospital for a car seat inspection, Garrity said. But that’s far fewer than what experts hope to see, since most caregivers still misuse the devices, she said.

Having technicians stationed across the county will only help prevent misuse, Garrity said.

“Education in this area is so lacking,” she said. “So, the more the better.”

Make an appointment

Fortville Police Officer Matt Fox will meet with parents across the county to conduct car seat inspections. Inspections are free and by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling the Fortville Police Department at 317-485-4044.

Car seat tips

1. Be cautious when it comes to buying a used car seat. Look for wear and tear, make sure there are no missing parts and double check that the seat has not been recalled. If a car seat is more than 6 years old, it is considered expired, experts say. Never buy car seats that have already been involved in a moderate or severe crash.

2. Avoid putting car seats in the front seat of a car, experts say. The safest place for a car seats is in the center of the back seat, away from air bags and doors that might be damaged in an accident.

3. Car seats are not replacements for cribs. Children should not sleep or relax in a car seat for long periods of time.

4. A car seat is secured tightly when it can move no more than 1 inch from side to side or front to back when strapped in by a seatbelt. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics.

5. Rear-facing car seats need to be reclined at the proper angle to prevent slouching or a child’s head from flopping forward. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics.

6. A child’s age and size determines when they should move to a forward-facing car seat or booster seat. Typically, children at least 2 years old who are at least 35 pounds can use a forward-facing car seat safely; booster seats are typically best for kids who are 40 to 80 pounds.

7. Big winter coats or other outerwear can impact the effectiveness of a car seat’s harness straps. Skip the coats for car rides and opt for a light jacket and hat instead; put a child’s coat on when it is time to get out of the car.

8. Just like adults, children in booster seats should always use the lap and shoulder belts of a car seat. Lap belt should sit low and snug across a child’s upper thighs and the shoulder belt should cross the middle of a child’s chest and shoulder.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.