Check child car seats this week

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Freeborn County Public Health is strongly urging anyone with children in safety seats to do a double check this week.

This week, Sept. 19-25, is National Child Passenger Safety Week.

According to Michelle Severtson, a county child passenger safety technician with Freeborn County Public Health, 80 to 90 percent of car seats checked in the department’s monthly drive-in carseat clinics are incorrectly installed.

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“One of the most common things we see is that the parents have turned the carseat around too early to face the front,” she said.

Severtson said the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children must remain rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old and 20 pounds in weight. She said convertible seats can be kept facing backwards until the children are up to 35 pounds.

“Parents will sometimes turn the children around early, because the kids whine and want to be facing forward, but they’re really safer in the rear-facing position,” she said.

Other common mistakes she sees include harnesses becoming twisted, or simply not pulled tight enough. Children in an improperly sized seat is yet another common error.

Parents taking seats apart for washing, but not being able to get them back together properly, is yet another problem frequently encountered at the clinics.

“We see a lot of borrowing of car seats,” Severtson added. “You can’t use a seat that’s older than six years old. We’re also seeing that new ones can’t be used past 2014 or 2016.”

Some seats may have a requirement that is fewer than six years, and Severtson said the dates of usage can typically be found on the manufacturer’s booklet. She said they can check manufacturer’s requirements and recalls for those who do not have their original manufacturer’s booklet.

Severtson also pointed out that children in Minnesota who have outgrown their infant car seats, but are under the age of 8 or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches, must ride in a booster seat in the back. Children under the age of 13 should never ride in the front seat, she said, because of issues with airbags deploying and paralyzing or even killing children.

“You need to make sure to abide by the law of whatever state you’re driving in,” Severtson said.

Severtson said that six staff members at Public Health are carseat-safety certified, along with several nurses at the Albert Lea Medical Center and local law enforcement officers.

She encourages all new parents to attend the monthly carseat clinics, as well.

Freeborn County Public Health’s next carseat clinic is scheduled on Oct. 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. near Herberger’s at Northbridge Mall. Severtson encouraged parents to call 377-5100 to schedule an appointment.