Police have eyes on car safety seats

A Peachtree City police officer talks about proper safety seat inspection with a local resident. Photo/John Munford.

Loose belts, harnesses won’t protect kids in a crash

When is a child safety seat not a child safety seat? When it’s not installed properly.

Statistics show that nine out of every 10 child safety seats are installed incorrectly, and that’s why the Peachtree City Police Department and Safe Kids Fayette County were checking them for local residents Wednesday afternoon in front of The Fresh Market.

Specially trained officers and volunteers inspected and re-installed the child safety seats for free, making a few friends along the way while also improving each child’s chances of surviving a horrific auto crash.

One of the most common problems is that the seat belt is not put into locking mode, which fails to properly secure the seat tightly, said Debbie Straight, Safe Kids coalition coordinator.

To put the belt in locking mode, it has to be pulled out all the way, and when it retracts it will lock its position every quarter inch or so, Straight said.

The seats should be installed tightly and should not move from side to side, noted Police Cpl. Jay Hughes.

Another common problem is the harness being too loose on the child, which won’t keep the child safely secured in the seat should a crash occur, Straight said.

Although booster seats can accommodate children 30 pounds and up, Straight recommends children stay in regular child safety seats until they reach the weight limit, which is typically 50 pounds.

It’s better to have the child in a normal seat under a harness than in a booster seat, because young children have a hard time sitting straight up and keeping the shoulder belt on, Straight noted.

It was also noted that Georgia law now requires some form of child restraint for children until they are eight years old or reach 4’9” tall.

Manufacturers have recently been putting expiration dates on child safety seats because the super-hot car cabins and cold temperature extremes can cause the plastic to become brittle and eventually break over time, Straight said. The latest recommendation is for child safety seats to be replaced after six years of use, she added.

Also in regard to the high temperatures inside a car, Straight said parents and grandparents are being reminded not to leave sleeping children in the car. The temperature can reach 120 degrees in just 20 minutes, even with the windows open, Straight noted.

Peachtree City residents who missed the inspection but would like for their child safety seats to be checked can call the police department to set up an appointment. If an after-hours meeting is necessary, police may also be able to accommodate such requests because there is typically one such specially-trained officer on duty for each shift, said Sgt. Brad Williams.

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