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Seat Belts, Car Seats & Safety

| NJM Temp

I recently watched a mother riding past me in the front passenger seat of a mini-van.   She looked cheerful and had just picked her child up from child care.  Unfortunately, the child was sitting on her mother’s lap sharing a seatbelt in the front passenger seat…… If I call the police, they can’t drive around town looking for them so what could I do?

We’ve all seen them….people driving around with young children crawling around inside the car.  Every day with people waiting to get into the drop off lane at our elementary school I see kids moving around inside the car.  When I was a public school teacher, I would do crosswalk duty and watch parents pull into the school from neighborhood streets with their own seatbelt on but no seatbelt on the children.  It’s unbelievable.

Recently the news was filled with the miraculous survival of a 1-year-old thrown from a car in Russia.  The child was thrown onto the road and narrowly missed being run over by an oncoming truck.  That child was lying on a blanket on the back seat of the car.  Where was that child’s car seat?

Earlier this week a young woman made a very dangerous left hand turn right in front of me as I was driving straight and almost killed herself, her passenger and possibly me too.  I have a big car and she has a little car!  Fortunately, I was not looking at my radio, sipping my tea or even sneezing.  We each ended up with scrapes on our cars where she scraped across my bumper as I was just able to stop before the impact.  If I had delayed my reaction by a couple of seconds it likely would have cost at least one person her life and possibly more.  If my children had been in the car, they would have been buckled into their booster seats and sitting up straight.  They hate it, but I actually want my children to survive to adulthood!

I grew up with a girl who became a quadriplegic due to a car accident and have lost three friends over the years in car accidents.  My father-in-law lost his only biological child in a car accident in the days before car seats.  He buried his son on Christmas day.  I’ll bet just about everyone knows someone who has had a terrible car accident, so why do we think it won’t happen to us?

If you do not have a car seat for your child, GET ONE.  There are assistance programs for car seats.  WIC has programs for free seats and your local fire department that has car seat checks can help you find a seat.   The local fire departments often have free safety seat checks.  As a person who works with infants and small children, I see a lot of misinformation about car seats from people who are otherwise quite smart.  It’s often surprising.   Did you know that as many as 90% of car seats, boosters and belts are not used properly according to Peak Vista Community Health Centers?   This doesn’t mean just those who use government services but it includes data from every socioeconomic group.    It probably means you and me too.

Have your child’s seat checked as soon as you can!

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