JMC Regional Health Department certified as car seat fitting station
Car crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for children with deaths of 723 children ages 12 years and younger and injuries of more than 128,000 in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other than CDC studies that show more than half of a million children riding without car seats and boosters and 35% not being buckled in, nearly half of car seats are misused, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Because of the Safe Kids Coalition of West Tennessee, the Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department is certified as a Child Safety Fitting Station.
Quill Brabham, the community health director at the health department, said the coalition formed about three years ago with community partners throughout the 20 counties, other than Shelby County, west of the Tennessee River.
The coalition focuses, in part, on child passenger safety by having instructors train and certify Brabham and 23 other technicians in the area with 18 in Madison County.
“The biggest importance is to make sure our children are protected and safe,” he said.
Four child passenger safety (CPS) technicians, including Brabham, are on the health department staff to help citizens learn to properly install car seats and booster seats to ensure children are restrained correctly. The technicians also educate parents and caregivers about the seats and child passenger safety laws.
Brabham said a big problem has been when people purchase car seats without registering them. Even though car seats are made to meet certain specifications, without registration, parents don’t know about recalls, he said.
In the fittings, the technicians check for those recalls as well as expirations.
Because the fitting station is at the health department — a central location for many services — Brabham said if people come for other services, they can conveniently schedule a car seat check as well.
Appointments are preferred for the free service because the technicians are community outreach workers who may not be in the office at all times.
For people unable to visit the health department during office hours, though, police and fire departments have technicians, too.
Weight matters, car seats matter
If seats aren’t installed correctly or are the wrong size, a child could be ejected, Brabham said.
Sometimes, children are in the wrong size car seats that were passed down from one sibling to the next.
As for booster seats, a child should remain in one until he or she is 4-foot-9 and 80 pounds.
Weight is important in car and booster seats because of their design, he said.
“The way that they’re designed, in the event of a crash, they’re developed in a way to only protect against a certain amount of force,” Brabham said. “If they’re in the wrong car seat, then the car seat will begin to lose its function and the person could possibly get ejected or get injured severely because of the resistance in the crash.”
Lindsey Nanney, program manager for the new program Community Health Access and Navigation in Tennessee (CHANT), said using car seats that are age- and size-appropriate is the best way to keep children safe.
“Every 32 seconds in 2017, a child under 13 was involved in a passenger vehicle crash,” Nanney said in a press release. “Car seats matter. Having the right car seat installed properly and used the right way is critical.”
With proper installation, car seats can save lives, like the more than 300 lives among children under age 5 saved by car seats in 2017.
“We’ll just be looking forward to serving the community, providing education and making sure that person’s car seats are installed correctly,” Brabham said.
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Lasherica Thornton is The Jackson Sun's education reporter. Reach her at 731-343-9133 or by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LashericaT