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Kids buckle up for National Child Passenger Safety Week

Safe Kids PA Susquehanna Valley tables at Janet Weis Children's Hospital during a car seat inspection event.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Safe Kids PA Susquehanna Valley tables at Janet Weis Children's Hospital during a car seat inspection event.

Buckling up? Check your kids’ car seat – over 75 percent of safety and booster seats are incorrectly installed, according to Safe Kids Pennsylvania.

As part of National Child Passenger Safety Week, Safe Kids PA, PennDOT, and local hospitals and police stations are providing free car seat inspections across the state. WVIA News spoke to providers at an inspection event in Danville. Angela Bieber, Highway Safety Network’s District 3 Coordinator emphasized that parents and guardians should check seat installation.

“Seat belts save lives,” said Bieber. “And if your child passenger’s safety seat is not installed properly, it can come loose – the child can come out of the safety seat. And of course the danger is if you’re in a crash, injuries and unfortunately…fatalities [can happen].”

Officer Joe Eister from the Danville Police Department said that car seat installation can be surprisingly tricky, even for seasoned caretakers.

“I just got car seat technician [certified] – I believe it was last year – and every one I’ve done, they’ve been improperly installed,” said Eister. “It’s been less than ten that I’ve done.”

Each safety or booster seat is different, said Eister, making it difficult for parents to get a perfect fit for their children.

“Most of them are – they can’t get them tight enough. Or…they don’t know if they should use a latch system, they don’t know if they should use the belt system,” said Eister. “And what we tell them is, 'You have to check with the manufacturer of the…car and you have to check with the manufacturer of the car seat itself.’ One [car seat] may say, ‘Yes, you can use latch and belt,’ but the car may say, ‘You can only use latch.’ So, it’s important that you read both of them.”

While Safety Week ends on Sept. 23, caretakers can get car seat assistance year-round, according to Eister. They can schedule appointments with their local police departments for a free inspection – something Eisner hopes more families will do.

“There should be no fear of any repercussions [for] bringing in a seat that’s not properly installed. A lot of people are afraid to come in because they are afraid they’re going to get in trouble. It’s a hundred percent for [their] education,” said Eisner.

Parents and guardians can find more information on how to properly install a car seat from PennDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.