BY JENNA HUTCHINS
Several local police departments donated their time and expertise last Saturday to help new parents, grandparents, and all those interested in checking, fitting, and installing car seats.
To conclude National Child Passenger Safety Week, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office sponsored an event to educate the community on the proper ways to install child and infant car seats. The event was held in front of the Rockland County Office Building in New City.
Officer Charles Lowther with the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office said this annual event was important for anyone with doubt on how to correctly position and secure a car seat. “People will bring in their car seats and we will teach them how to install them properly.”
Pomona resident Brigitte Simon did just that. “This car seat is for my granddaughter. She is two and a half. I’m going to be spending more time with her and I want her to be safe in the car when she’s with me.” She picked up her car seat locally at Babies“R”Us in Nanuet. Sergeant John Wood from the Stony Point Police Department showed her how to install it.
Trained officers will also help you identify if a seat is safe to use. Officer John Squillini with the Sheriff’s Department says, “The height and weight [of a child or infant] is more important than age.” To determine what type of car seat or booster a child needs, you can look to the stickers on the sides, back, and bottom of the seat. There will be minimum and maximum requirements for every seat. If a child is larger or smaller for his or her age, then the seat needs to reflect the correct size over what is common for his or her years
During their inspection, officers also assessed whether a seat had been recalled, referring to a printout that can be found online at www.hsrc.unc.edu under “Child Restraint Recall List.” They use this information as well as knowledge from their training. Officers need to take a 40-hour course every two years to remain certified and up-to-date with changing safety standards.
Officer Jim Russell with the Sheriff’s Department and Sergeant Wood also gave tips for those in the market for a car seat. Sergeant Wood said, “Don’t buy used car seats because you don’t know the history of them.”
Car seats that have been in a crash resulting in injuries should always be replaced. If you buy a seat offline from someone, for instance, you cannot guarantee that it will be safe. In addition, parents or caregivers should examine seats frequently for any white marks on the plastic, which may indicate stresses caused by bending. The elements can also weaken or damage seats.
Exposure to extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter contributes to the wear-and-tear of a car seat. In any of these scenarios, the seat should always be replaced. Officer Russell noted that you can protect other children by cutting the straps on discarded seats to ensure no one else can “junk pick” your used seat on garbage day. These tips could save a child’s life in the event of a crash.
The safety day also saw officers from S. Nyack Grandview, Clarkstown, and Haverstraw Police Departments. This event will be held again next year and will again be open to the community.