FAIRMONT – Car wrecks are the leading cause of injury and death for children annually.
The lack of car seats to keep kids safe can increase the possibility of injury if an accident does occur, but an improperly secured seat can negate the safety it is meant to provide.
“The whole point of car seat is if there is a wreck you want them to be properly secured,” said Amy Boggs, child passenger safety coordinator for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “If they have a car seat but they’re not installed properly, it almost defeats the purpose. Car seats are all crash tested so if there is a wreck, every point on that car seat serves a purpose.”
In order to improve car safety for children, the state has led car seat installation and safety check courses throughout West Virginia, with police stations being certified locations in most cases. However, some family service organizations have been certified as well, and Fairmont’s Connecting Link is one of the next to go through that process.
“Once we go through the training, we can be certified to install car seats and check them to make sure they’re installed correctly,” said Emily Brown, emergency assistance coordinator for Connecting Link. “Our goal is that when we do give them these car seats that we can fill the car seats with diapers as well.”
According to Brown, the workers of Connecting Link will go through the training in August, which includes a four-day training course that demonstrates the use of car seats on children of different ages, weights and sizes.
The diapers Brown are part of an extra initiative Connecting Link just embarked on called Dimes for Diapers, which aims to provide needy families with diapers.
“Here’s your bottle of water, you drink the water and then you fill the bottle with dimes,” Brown said. “So if you fill this completely full with dimes, you can usually get $136 on average.
“We will get donations of dimes, and work in conjunction with car seats because that’s a huge need.”
Brown said the diapers purchased through the program can be disseminated by the Connecting Link alongside car seats, because after the training, the nonprofit will serve as a fitting center for car seats.
“Once you are a certified location to receive them and install them, they will provide them,” Brown said. “It’s part of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.”
The certification in car seat installation and safety checks is valid for two years, according to Boggs. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program aims to promote road safety among drivers and passengers alike because children are often the most susceptible to injury in the event of a car accident.
She said West Virginia’s child car seat law outlines the specific guidelines parents and caretakers need to follow with child passengers.
“State law is in a passenger vehicle, child has to be secured in a child safety device that meets standards,” Boggs said. “The law is they have to be in a car seat until they are 8, or until they are 4-feet-9. Always use a seat that fits the child best and that fits the car best.”
In addition to these guidelines, Boggs said kids should be secured in the correctly sized car seat for their age and height, not sit in the front seat before age 13 and wear both the lap belt and the shoulder belt.
Brown said the Connecting Link has received phone calls from families in need of both diapers and car seats over the years, which brought about its campaign to help provide both. However, Brown and Boggs both said car seats and diapers will be distributed to families that meet certain income standards.
Even so, Brown is anticipating the training for car seat installations, and is hoping to get donations of dimes, money and other supplies through the Connecting Link’s drive.
“We saw a need or it and kind of just took off with it,” Brown said. “It’s definitely a need in this area and it’s just another way that we can help out, and that is our ultimate goal.”
According to Boggs, locations for car seat installations and safety checks throughout the state can be located online at www.transportation.wv.gov/DMV/Safety/CPS.