10/11/11 — Safe Kids trying to protect county children

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Safe Kids trying to protect county children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 11, 2011 1:46 PM

When it comes to car seats, one size does not fit all.

There are height and weight restrictions, as well as laws governing how to install them.

"Eighty percent of car seats are not installed properly," said Charity Johnson, program specialist with Partnership for Children of Wayne County and coordinator of Safe Kids Wayne County. "A lot of people also don't know there are expiration dates stamped on them and also need to check for recalls.

"We just threw out 32 recalled seats that we collected from Community Day. One was from 1999."

Years ago, car seats were non-existent. Parents and grandparents would simply hold their children or buckle up their tiny bodies with seat belts designed for much larger passengers.

For those around during that era especially, the current list of restrictions may come as a surprise.

"We've had grandparents who don't have a car seat, say, 'Just throw them (the child) in and buckle them up," said Cassie Kermode, another program specialist at the Partnership.

Another confusing aspect regarding car seats deals with which way to face them. According to the N.C. Highway Safety Research Center, install rear-facing child restraints as long as possible, but at least until age 1, preferably 2, for maximum protection.

"Just preventing injuries that are accidental, we want to make sure we educate our families, about air bags and the seat they need to be in and why," she said. "I think it's about 80 percent of spinal cord injuries happen (with seats facing forward)."

In addition to conducting car seat inspections at health fairs and as part of prenatal classes, Safe Kids Wayne County has two permanent car seat checking stations -- at the fire station on Royall Avenue, the first and third Wednesday of each month from 3 to 6 p.m., and by appointment at the Partnership office on William Street.

"Also on (Seymour Johnson) base, they have 28 technicians that just got certified and can check base families at their fire department," she added. "We probably check about 50 seats a month and at our Community Day we checked 100 car seats in three and one-half hours."

Affiliated with the national Safe Kids organization -- there are more than 300 coalitions in all 50 states -- North Carolina has chapters in 66 of its 100 counties, Mrs. Johnson said.

But efforts extend beyond car seat safety.

According to their mission statement, Safe Kids works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under.

"We also do road safety, pool safety -- we provided swimming lessons for 36 kids last summer and educated parents and kids on pool safety -- we also do fire safety," she said.

Earlier this week, the organization participated in National Walk to School Day, Mrs. Johnson added.

Not that many local students still walk to school, she said, but there are some. In recent years, Safe Kids has received "walk to school grants" to conduct presentations on pedestrian safety for students. Last year it was done at Fremont STARS Elementary School, where a segment of the population does still arrive at school on foot.

This year's grant was used for a similar presentation at Meadow Lane Elementary School, where about 100 students participated in skits and activities about street safety before being accompanied on a walk to Greenwood Middle School, located across the street from the school.

Meadow Lane and Greenwood, because of their proximity to the Air Force base, have more students walking to and from school, Mrs. Johnson said, and several years ago a crosswalk between the two schools was the site of a traffic accident injuring several Greenwood students.

For more information on Safe Kids or to obtain information on car seats or a specially produced car sticker with medical and contact information, to post in the car in the event of an accident, call 735-3371 or visit www.pfcw.org.