By Selwyn Harris
Officials at NyE Communities Coalition NyECC are taking a proactive position to make sure young children are safe while traveling in a car with mom and dad around town.
The organization is looking to reduce and hopefully eliminate the number of children killed and injured by motor vehicle accidents by training adults on the proper way to secure their precious cargo while traveling from point A to point B and returning safely.
NyECC’s Tim Wigchers said a four-day training class on child seat safety inspection and installation began on Wednesday.
Those who are taking the class are volunteers, staff members as well as a few local members of the community.
Wigchers is participating in the training.
“We started by actually learning more about cars and how people move around in them in accidents. The training has been about that first. We are starting to take a look at proper seatbelt installation and as we move along, we will be doing that by ourselves and that is leading up to an event that is part of the training this weekend,” he said.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the coalition offices, 1020 E. Wilson Road, volunteers will be helping to install and inspect car seats, even providing new car seats to people who need them. All NyECC asks is that people qualify for the seats by being on public assistance with an identification card.
“We are inspecting for everyone and making sure that the car seats are installed properly and train the caregivers in doing that. For somebody who is need of an upgraded car seat, we can provide that at no cost at all for those who qualify based upon the inventory that we have. We did clean out Walmart and we actually purchased 24 car seats the other day,” he said.
The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show car accidents are the leading killer of children ages 1 to 12 years old in the United States.
The agency also noted that child restraint systems are the most effective way to protect young children involved in motor vehicle crashes.
Wigchers stressed that proper installation of child safety seats makes the difference between surviving a serious accident or being injured or even killed.
“What we learned on the first morning is the goal of the car seat is to actually make the seat part of the car so that it is not an object that is moving around and should be as fixed as anything else is inside the vehicle,” he said.
Marci Burke is a child passenger safety technician who is instructing the class this week.
She said too many parents do not know the proper way to secure their children in car seats prior to pulling out of the driveway.
“On the average, about nine out of 10 car seats are installed improperly, so we love to see parents and caregivers come out and at least attempt to get their car seats installed properly. That is what we are trying to teach these folks here today. How to install them properly so they can get out in their own community and teach other parents and caregivers.
“By not having those seats installed properly, children can face injury or even death, but it is preventable. We want to do our best to continue to prevent those circumstances so we don’t see have to see the kind of injuries and deaths to our own children,” she said.
Pahrump resident Darrylynn Harrison is one of 11 participants enrolled in the class.
Slightly abashed, she admitted that during the first few hours of the class, she learned that she too was guilty of installing her child’s safety seat improperly.
“This is good because I’m actually learning stuff that I did not know, considering that I have two kids; a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old that are in car seats and booster seats so I am learning. According to my manual, I have not been putting them in the right way. This very good information for me,” she said.
Virginia Trevethan volunteers her time at the coalition.
She said she enrolled in the class just to gain valuable information.
“It’s good and very informative. It is a long process but it is very informative. If for instance, I am in the Albertson’s parking lot and somebody has their kid with a car seat, then I can inform them and actually help them. New parents sometimes don’t know how to do that. I’ve done car seats before, but it is different because the laws have changed, so now we have to learn new techniques and how to do it properly,” she said.
Burke also noted that due to the dozens of different car seats available and the scores of different vehicles on the road, getting the seat properly installed can be a lesson in futility for some.
“Sometimes they don’t always work together, so there are tricks of the trade that we use to get them to work together. As many know the vehicle itself is designed for an adult and not necessarily the child, so we have ways to make them work together,” she said.
Burke, meanwhile, pointed out that parents need not be mechanically inclined to achieve a proper installation.
“The car seat industry as a whole changes constantly. New car seats and new technology are always evolving so you do have to stay on top of it all of the time. For the people who pass this class this week, they will be nationally certified and they do have to recertify every two years to stay on top of the new technologies and that sort of thing,” she said.