Is your child’s safety seat safe?

WASHINGTON –Car crashes are the number one killer of kids in the U.S. That’s why it’s critical to make sure your child’s car seat is installed correctly.

But it turns out that getting that car seat in your car the right way and making sure it fits your child properly can be a tricky business, and many parents are failing their kids and don’t know it.

Prince George’s County police officer Cpl. Errol Lobin was one of the certified car seat technicians at a child safety seat inspection taking place Saturday morning outside the Prince George’s Community Federal Credit Union in Beltsville. The credit union has teamed up with the police department for the last three years for this car seat checkup.

The bottom line: these car seat safety checkups are all about saving little lives.

Cpl. Lobin was working with Jessica and John Klapstein of Laurel, who are expecting a daughter in July. “I used to work car seat checks as a volunteer, I know how important it is to make sure the car seat’s installed properly,” Jessica Klapstein says.

Her husband John Klapstein agreed. “It’s all new to me and I want to make sure we get it done right, have somebody who knows what they’re doing check it out.” Jessica laughs and says, “We don’t have it right, (installed) right now I can tell.” The couple wanted to make sure they were ready just in case the baby comes early.

Fermill Edwards from Landover brought her two youngest grandkids to get their safety seats checked. “Because I’m a grandmother and I want my grandchildren to be safe,” she says. That’s why she came to the car seat checkup Saturday. Matter of fact, she was the first car in line and got there about 15-minutes before the event began.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 96 percent of parents think their child safety seat is installed properly but seven out of 10 are not.

“We’ve found of the 100-percent coming in that 95-percent are installed improperly,” says Joyce Beck, community outreach specialist with Prince George’s County Police.

Beck says holding these checkups is especially important in Prince George’s County since the county has a higher rate of death and injury for children involved in car crashes than the state average. “It’s at 95-percent (county) and statewide it’s at 75-percent,” Beck says.

Car seats do have expiration dates, and some car seats have been recalled. Beck says small children up to the age of two must ride rear-facing in the backseat of the vehicle. And if your child has outgrown a car seat but the seat belt doesn’t fit your child correctly, then they still need a booster seat.

Kids use booster seats from about four until as late as 12 years old, depending on their body weight and height.

“It’s important,” Beck says. “You got to get that seat belt to fit the child where it should. Boosters are life-saving instruments and we must use them.” He adds that Maryland state law requires all children remain riding in the back seat of the vehicle until they are 11-years-old and must be buckled.

Tracy Whitman, coordinator for Maryland Kids in Safety Seats, says if a car seat has been in a crash it needs to be tossed — once in a crash, trash.

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