HARLINGEN —From daily routine drives to and from school to family vacation road trips, children spend much of their time in the car.
Valley Baptist Health System in conjunction with Safe Riders and the RGV CAR Coalition will help area children spend that time on the road safely by offering a free car seat inspection station on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. – noon in the Boggus Education Pavilion parking lot located at 2110 Benwood Drive in Harlingen.
Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen has offered the free inspections during National Child Passenger Safety Week for more than 15 years, said Yolanda Padilla, a certified specialist in trauma registry and certified child passenger safety technician.
During the inspection event, Padilla said that certified inspection technicians will look to make sure car seats are properly installed, and if a child is using the correct car seat based on their age, height, and weight.
According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using the appropriate car seat for children and installing it correctly isimportant to maximizing protection in the event of an accident.
Infants and children two years old or younger should be buckled in a rear-facing seat until they reach weight or height limits for such devices. Once children outgrow rear-facing seats, they should be buckled in forward facing seats until at age 5, or until they reach listed weight or height limits.
Children can then transition to booster seats, and ultimately to seat belts in a vehicle’s back seats once they are approximately 57 inches tall.
To help cut through the confusion surrounding what car seats are appropriate for individual children, Padilla explained what parents can expect when they arrive at the inspection station.
“The first thing is we check where the child is in the vehicle and if they are in a car seat or using their seat belt. We check the recall book to make sure the car seat they have has not been recalled and also check if the has not expired,” she said. “If the car seat does not have labels, if available, we will provide parents with a new seat.”
According to information from the United States Department of Transportation, nearly half of all car seats are installed incorrectly, which could lead to insufficient protection in the result of an accident.
Padilla said education is key to making sure that car seats are providing as much protection as possible.
“We educate parents on how to install the seat to make them comfortable that they are doing it correctly,” she said. “We also adviseparents that if they are in an accident and they feel the car seat needs to be replaced, they can call us to replace the seat.”
Because traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 13, using a properly installed car seat free of damage and defects is key to preventing tragedy, said Dr. Hillary Chollet, trauma medical director for Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s Level II Trauma Center.
“Research has shown that using age- and size-appropriate child restraints, including car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries in a crash,” he said. “Motor vehicle crash deaths among children age 12 and younger decreased by 43 percent from 2002-2011; however, still more than 9,000 children died in crashes during that period. Car seats save lives, and many of these tragedies are preventable when parents use age-and size-appropriate child restraints every time their child rides in a motor vehicle.”
For more information on this weekend’s inspection event or Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s regular car seat education classes, call (956) 389-6910.