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Keeping our youngest passengers safe from harm

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Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 12:00 am

Last summer, the Lodi Police Department conducted a Child Safety Seat Inspection. Out of 15 car seats checked, all were installed incorrectly. One child arrived without a restraint, and two were returned to convertible seats from their boosters.

There were a total of 16 vehicles and 22 inspections. After the event, I tallied up the numbers and was astounded to find that 100 percent of the children that came into our inspection needed a new or different seat, or to have their seat adjusted.

As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of children 1 to 12 years old." This is a sobering fact that I did not realize until recently, as it is not typically reported in the media.

Research has shown that child restraints are 71 percent effective in reducing infant fatalities and 54 percent effective among children ages one to four in crashes.

To further complicate matters, Jan. 1 of this year brought new changes to the safety seat laws. Children are now required to be in a safety seat until the age of eight, or until they are 4-feet, 9-inches tall. They are also required to be seated in the back seat of the vehicle (with a few exceptions). The purpose of this was to ensure that the straps cross the strongest portions of the child's body to improve their chances of surviving a major collision.

According to the CHP website, statistics have shown that a child's risk is reduced 33 percent by riding in the back seat. Much to the dismay of my 7-year-old daughter, she found herself back in a booster seat for another seven months.

Speaking both personally and professionally, I know that it can be very difficult to determine what the best seat for your child is, as well as how to properly install it. I have sweated and contorted myself in the back seat of our car, cursing the overly clever car seat manufacturers as I tried to get my children's seats in correctly.

There are dedicated individuals who have learned to properly install seats. Technician training is rigorous and requires a 32-hour long course in which they learn about crash safety, vehicle dynamics and safety seat installation. After installing a seat at an inspection event, a senior inspector/instructor (who has an additional week of training) inspects the installation to make sure it was done correctly.

For those of you who would like help or further advice, the Lodi Police Department is here to serve you. On July 26 between 10 a.m. and noon, the Lodi PD will be conducting a free safety seat inspection at Lodi Lake on a first-come, first-served basis. This event will be done in conjunction with AAA and the San Joaquin County Public Health Department, with generous donations from the Lodi Sunset Rotary, DeVinci's of Lodi, and the Lodi Police Officers Association. Area technicians will volunteer their time to work with and educate the public regarding child seat safety.

For more information, you can refer to the CHP website under the "Community" tab at www.chp.ca.gov, the California Department of Public Health at www.cdph.ca.gov, or visit www.safekids.org.

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