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The City Journals

Car Seat Checkpoint Aims to Keep Kids Safe

May 05, 2016 03:05PM ● By Sandra Osborn

By Sandra Osborn /[email protected]

South Jordan - Hundreds of children are riding safer thanks to free car seat checks. Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians culminated their certification process by offering a community car seat checkpoint at the South Jordan Target parking lot on March 24.

“We want to make sure car seats everywhere are safe,” Cambree Applegate from Safe Kids Utah said.

The newly trained CPS technicians came from all over. Trainee Jen Frost was there from AAA Insurance in Draper, while Jorge Mendez came as part of the Salt Lake County Health Department. April Martinez represented the Ute Tribe in Vernal, and she joined others from diverse places such as Hill Air Force Fire Department, Primary Children’s Medical Center, the Highway Safety Office and the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. 

Each trainee now has the task of returning to his or her community to carry on with the work of keeping kids safe while on the road.

According to the Utah Highway Safety Office, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 0–14. As part of the Zero Fatalities and Click It or Ticket campaigns, Utah’s seat belt law is changing to a primary enforcement law. Effective May 12, law enforcement officers could pull over drivers for not wearing seat belts.

With over 180 kinds of car seats, according to CPS instructor Terry Smith, it is more important now than ever to make sure parents know how to use their seats correctly, and trained CPS technicians can help. 

“Seventy percent of all car seats are used incorrectly,” Applegate said. “Often the seat is the wrong size for the child, or it is not properly installed. Belts are not tight enough or buckled at all.” 

Kim Jewkes, a mother of two, said she had been on the lookout for an event like this. 

“I’ve been using car seats for four years now and had never had them checked,” Jewkes said. “I feel safer now that someone else has looked at them and made sure they are okay.”

CPS technicians looked at each vehicle’s user manual in addition to their safety checklist, which included checking the seat’s expiration date, recall information and fit to the child. The technicians measured the height and weight of the children whenever the parents were unsure. The children were all too happy to participate, though some argued for comfort when told to keep the seat belt straps over their shoulders. 

Children should be kept in a car seat until they are 4’9” tall or 8 years old, according to the current recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

“We encourage parents to go by the 4’9” recommendation rather than age because that is what vehicle and car seat manufacturers design for,” South Jordan Master Officer Sam Winkler said. 

Winkler reminded parents to keep kids in rear-facing seats until age 2 and keep kids in the back seat until age 13. Parents should also keep an eye out for car seat expiration dates. 

“The lifespan of a car seat is six years,” Winkler said. “Especially here in Utah, when in the summer the temperature inside vehicles gets really high and in the winter gets really low, the plastic becomes brittle and can break.” 

Car seats should be replaced whenever they have been involved in crash where injuries were sustained. 

“The one thing that parents can do that will have the greatest effect in the car safety of their children is get their questions answered,” Winkler said. 

“Here in South Jordan, we have five CPS technicians on staff. Residents can call the South Jordan Police Department anytime and schedule to have their seats checked,” Winkler said. “The city also offers some low-cost car seats for people in need.”

“It makes us feel good to see people come out and get their seats checked. It is that many more kids riding safe on the streets.”

The Free Car Seat Checkpoint event was co-sponsored by the South Jordan Police Department in collaboration with the Utah Department of Public Safety, the Utah Highway Safety Administration and Safe Kids Worldwide.