Paramedics share serious security messages about child safety seats

Read this, and see why saving a few bucks on a child safety seat could actually cost a parent the life of their child …

Child Safety Seat Technician Instructor, and public education and information officer for AMR, Lucie Drum says good car seats need not be expensive.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A good child safety seat might be the most thoughtful gift expectant parents could receive – this is what we took away from visiting at a recent Safety Seat Clinic in southeast Portland.

“The number one killer of our children in Oregon is motor vehicle crashes,” recounted Lucie Drum, Child Safety Seat Technician Instructor, and also the public education and information officer for American Medical Response (AMR).

“In addition to providing service to the community we serve, we’re doing out best to help make sure kids are safe when they ride in cars, because emergency medical service providers see the devastating injuries that can happen to children who are not properly restrained in a crash,” Drum said.

Each month, she noted, somewhere in the greater Portland area, AMR Ambulance conducts Child Safety Seat Clinics. “At these clinics, we find that as many as 80 to 85% of child safety seats are improperly installed – or, the kids have outgrown them.”

Ally MacCaskill, who is with AMR, shows expectant mom Rory Pickett how to properly use a new infant safety seat.

Don’t skimp on safety seats
Buying a safety seat at a thrift shop or yard sale is a bad idea, warned Drum. “We recommended that you don’t get such a child restraint if you don’t know its history. You cannot tell if a safety restraint has been in a crash and has hidden structural damage, or if it’s ‘out of date’ and should be discarded.”

Drum turned over a new Child Safety Seat available at the clinic and pointed to the notice it was dated to expire in 2015. “You’ll find the date in embossed lettering, on the back or bottom of every seat. The plastic gets exposed to ultraviolet rays and temperature extremes that can affect the integrity of the child car seat.”

Safety seat buying tips
But, in this tight economy, Drum said, she didn’t want to discourage parents from getting well-fitting car seats. “You don’t have to have the fancy one. As long as the car seat has passed the federal motor vehicle safety standards for crash testing, it’s okay to buy and use.”

However, make sure the seat fits the child – in terms of age, weight and maturity level – and does fit your vehicle. “You also want to have ease-of-use features, so it will be used correctly, every time, in the vehicle.”

Typical seat use errors
Surveys keep turning up these three critical usage and installation errors:

  • The seatbelt is too loose;
  • The harness does not fit properly; and,
  • The restraint is inappropriate for the child.

“‘Inappropriate’ means the child has exceeded the height or weight specifications of the child restraint,” explained Drum. “Children grow very quickly, and it can be tricky to keep up with their maturation rate. It’s not uncommon to find a child restraint that has a harness rated for a 40-pound child being used with one who now weighs 46 or 48 pounds.”

And, she added, after a child outgrows a safety seat, they need to use a “booster seat” until they are tall enough to use a vehicle’s standard restraint system.

Catherine Albrecht, Oregon State Police retired, demonstrates how to correctly use a safety seat.

Financial aid is available
“Unfortunately we are in financially hard times here,” conceded Drum. “Fortunately, throughout Oregon, there is a federally-funded program for child safety seats.” Low-income families – those who qualify for WIC, or are on medical assistance – qualify for new safety seats without cost, she added.

“We recognize that having the correctly-sized child safety seat, and using it properly every time, might be a bit of inconvenience – but consider what might happen if your child is improperly-restrained during a car crash,” concluded Drum. “We ask every parent: Please don’t risk it!”

Next clinic on February 27
Their next event is runs on February 27 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Portland Fire & Rescue Station 23 on SE Powell Boulevard at SE Milwaukie Avenue (enter from the Milwaukie Ave. side.

No appointment is necessary. They ask that you read your vehicle owners manual and car seat instructions prior to attending. A certified technician will be available to work one on one with parents and caregivers to ensure that they can install their child restraints properly. Each seat check takes 20-30 minutes.

To learn more about Child Safety Seat Clinics, check their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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