Setup key to child safety seats |

Setup key to child safety seats

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Almost all child restraint seats set up by untrained people are installed incorrectly, experts said.

Experts, such as Capt. Mark Novack at Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, are reminding parents about how critical it is to correctly install child restraints during Child Passenger Safety week, which began Sunday.

Novack became a child passenger safety technician three years ago to make sure his children were safe in a car. He volunteered at a checkpoint where officials inspected child seats. After the experience he took a 40-hour class to become certified.

The captain listed three areas of common mistakes that he sees while inspecting seats. The first involves the wrong kind of restraint for the child.

“One of the largest ones we see is a child over 4 (years old) being put behind the seat belt,” Novack said.

Seat belts are made for a person who averages 170 pounds and 5 feet 9 inches tall, Novack said. When a child is put behind a seat belt, there isn’t contact with the correct parts of their body. The belt either hits the children in the face or neck, making them want to put the belt behind them.

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Booster seats can solve the problem, Novack said.

The second mistake involves not installing the seat correctly, while the third is not securing the child correctly in the restraint.

Novack said one adult finger should be able to fit under two shoulder harnesses for the child.

The captain has been to accidents involving children. He has seen children correctly secured walk away from accidents while adults are seriously injured.

Children under a year old should and 20 pounds be in a rear facing seat. If a crash occurs, the impact will spread over their entire body, including the back and back of the head, the strongest part of a baby’s body.

An infant facing forward can have its head thrown forward, which would stretch the spinal cord and possibly lead to death.

A common mistake easily found after school at elementary schools is children under 12 years old riding in the front seat.

According to statistics, a child riding in the front seat is one-third more likely to die in a crash than a child in the back seat.

“Nobody wants a tragedy to happen but I think most parents would think they would have done anything to save their child,” Novack said.

El Dorado County Health Promotions said traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for 6- to 14-years-old.

Office assistant Christine Gates and Officer Sherry Reehl at the California Highway Patrol also offer inspections. Gates said during a safety seat inspection in Sacramento, an estimated 85 percent of seats were installed improperly.

Speeding motorists pulled over for their infraction can be ticketed if their child is in a improper seat, Gates said.

Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, CHP and El Dorado County Health Promotions are available to inspect a child seat. There will not be penalties and low cost child seats are available.

To schedule an appointment, call Tahoe-Douglas at (775) 588-3591, CHP at (530) 577-1001 or El Dorado County Health Promotions at (530) 573-3383.

— William Ferchland may be contacted at