By Joy Addington
Some parents buckling their children up for safety may learn they are doing more harm than good.
Even in this baby capital of the world, 98 percent of parents in Utah County misuse car seats, said SAFE Kids heath educator and Certified Health Education Specialist Kye Miner. The national average of car seat misuse is only 80 percent.
The Utah County Chapter of SAFE kids offer free car seats checks daily by appointment and a weekly car seat safety class.
SAFE kids car seat safe certified volunteers check all parts of the car seat to make sure they
Charlotte Garn, 21, a senior from Farmington majoring in community health schedules car seats safety checks at the health department.
“We check to make sure the car seat is not more than six years old and there have been no recalls on the seat.
“We show them how to put the seat in tight and how to put the child and car seat straps in the proper position,” Garn said.
Parents can make appointments between the hours of 9 and 11:30 a.m. Each car seat check takes an average of 30 minutes.
Miner teaches the weekly one hour car seat safety class, is the mother of two and avid supporter of car seat safety.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children under 15,” Miner said. “They account for more deaths than all childhood diseases.”
Utah State law requires that children under five be buckled in and has no weight requirement.
But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children that weigh less than 80 pounds or shorter than 4-foot 9 need a car seat regardless of age, Miner said.
“The law is lame. Just because it (the weight requirement) is not passed does not mean that it is not necessary,” Miner said.
Miner identifies children between the ages of 4 and 8 as forgotten children, because so often they are only protected by a seatbelt that was designed for a 5 foot 10 inches, 160 pound male.
“Women can’t fit in seatbelts let alone children. They need booster seats,” Miner said. “I am an advocate for the children. We work to protect the unprotected.”
Known by friends and family as the “car seat Nazi,” Miner said she is constantly surprised how many ways parents make mistakes when attempting to secure their children.
Miner said most car seats are not fastened tight enough. She said the only way to ensure the seat is in correctly is to put your entire body weight in the seat and pull it tightly.
She said the majority of parents misuse or fail to use locking clips, which hold the lap and shoulder belt together.
There are six different seatbelt systems and parents should check their car owner’s manual to be sure they need or are using the proper locking clip. If misused this safety device will simply snap like plastic, Miner said.
Miner said parents should always follow the one-finger rule to ensure the harness is properly adjusted to their child.
“If you can fit two fingers on top of each other between the harness and the collarbone, it is too loose,” Miner said.
Miner said the harness clip should be fastened at armpit level and children should be rear-facing until one year of age and 20 pounds.
“The handle on the infant car seat should be down and in a locked position behind the carseat,” Miner said.
Holly Decker, 23, a senior from Orem, majoring in community health is an intern for SAFE kids.
Decker has been doing car seat checks since May of this year and said she has yet to check a car seat that was positioned correctly.
Garn said it is not that the parents don’t care, it is because they don’t know.
SAFE kids provides parents with the opportunity to learn and make a difference in the safety of their child.
Parents can schedule car seat checks by calling (801) 370-8735.