Putnam County officials adding new technicians to help improve a 92 percent misuse rate among child safety seat users.
Federal stats estimate car safety seats can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by as much as 80 percent when compared to just a seat belt. Putnam Car Seat Coordinator Leah Thomas said the four-person team wants to make sure parents truly understand how to install the seats.
“So, to be able to be a child passenger safety technician, I took a 40 hours class, and parents are expected to just read that car seat manual and figure that out,” Thomas said. “Those car seat manuals are a whole bunch of pages. People don’t either read the manual or the manual is confusing. They don’t understand the manual, so they just kind of put it in the way they’ve always done it, and it might not necessarily be correct.”
Thomas said the most common mistakes involve the wrong belt path or locking in the seatbelt incorrectly.
“The harness needs to be tight enough that you cannot pinch the webbing together,” Thomas said. “And then there’s that chest clip, the buckle in the center. That needs to go at the center of the chest on that hard sternum. So we’re finding that people are not putting those there, the tether. So, in a forward facing car seat, the back of your car seat has a tether, and that tether needs to be routed and hooked to the tether strap in your car. It helps stop forward facing movement in a car crash, saves your kid four to six inches and helps prevent neck injuries. So we’re finding a lot of people aren’t using that.”
Thomas said the county provides four technicians on an appointment basis to check your car safety seat. You can call 528-1555 to schedule a safety check.
“When somebody calls needing a car seat check, I’m able to set up an appointment with one of those that the people can come into our station and get their car seat checked,” Thomas said. “It takes roughly about 30 minutes per check.”
The service begins with the harness, then checking that the seat meets the right age, weight and height for your child. Thomas said the technicians show parents how to remove to seat and reinstall it correctly. Thomas said people use the service. But more people need to use the free checks.
“Eight car seats in Putnam County were correct last year that we checked,” Thomas said. “There has to be more out there, but we want to be able to make sure that we’re catching those that aren’t and getting children riding safely.”
The county works with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office on the program.
A CDC report found children in rural areas are typically at higher risk of being killed in a crash. A multistate study using data from car seat check events found that child restraint misuse was more common in rural locations at about 91 percent, some eight percent lower that urban locations.