How a car seat checkup event could save a child’s life

Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children one to 12 years old in the United States, according to the North Charleston Fire Department.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:56 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2023 at 8:57 AM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In order to promote car seat safety, Safe Kids South Carolina Charleston Area is teaming up with the North Charleston Fire Department, MUSC Children’s Health and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to host a car seat checkup event.

Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children one to 12 years old in the United States, according to the North Charleston Fire Department. Their data shows that a lot of these deaths and injuries are a result of improper car seat installation.

Kevin Poore, Program Coordinator for the State Child Passenger Safety Program and Safe Kids South Carolina, said that most people are unaware that their car seats are not properly installed. Poore said that data shows the majority of car seats are being used incorrectly.

“The misuse for car seats is really really high,” Poore said. “Some estimates and some of our data from where we’ve checked car seats is showing as high as 70% of car seats being used incorrectly. What we know is that a correctly installed car seat prevents injury, prevents death – so it really is the best thing that you can do to make sure your child is protected in the vehicle.”

All this week, students from various agencies in the Lowcountry have been going through a National Certification Class to become Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. At the car seat checkup event, these technicians will check to see if car seats have been properly installed or install the car seats themselves. The technicians will advise the caregivers and parents on how to choose the right car seat. They will also check for expiration dates and recalls on the car seats and show the participants how to register to be notified if their car seat gets recalled.

Poore said he encourages everyone to come to the event today as he said it can do no harm.

“Don’t assume that you’re using your car seat correctly,” Poore said. “We have a really high misuse rate in the state of South Carolina – and really it’s not just South Carolina, it’s nationally – and so, even if you think you’re doing it right the only thing it’s going to cost you is a little bit of time and, at a minimum, you’re going to get peace of mind out of it and, in most cases, you’re going to get your child more safe in the vehicle.”

Mary Beth Vassy, Pediatric Injury Prevention Coordinator at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and the Safe Kids Charleston Area Coalition Lead, said that at the hospital she really sees the impact improper use of a car seat can have.

“Working at the Children’s Hospital – I work in the trauma department in the emergency department at the Children’s Hospital – we see lots of kids come in from motor vehicle accidents,” Vassy said. “It’s pretty much a regular occurrence. Oftentimes they are not secured correctly in their car seats and it’s very clear that that secure restraint would have made a big difference in the way that they come into our hospital and in the way that they would’ve gotten injured. It’s really important for us to be out here and educating because we see the injuries that come in and know just how big of a difference that restraints can be.”.

North Charleston Fire said car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers when properly used.

Vassy also said that many people are unaware that they are doing anything wrong when it comes to their car seats, and she hopes that by doing this event, she can make a difference.

“I have a nephew and before I was trained as a technician, I actually was doing things that were unsafe but I had no idea, you know, it’s the when you know better, you do better and I didn’t know better,” Vassy said. “And so, I did some things that were really unsafe when it came to car seats and taking care of my nephew and so now that I know, I want to make sure other caregivers feel empowered to take care of their loved ones or even their own children because you really don’t know what you don’t know until you get that education.”

Poore also said that education on car seat installations will make you much more cautious and aware – especially when you have a personal connection to a child that could be affected.

“You see the crash test videos and you see the statistics kind of on a regular basis about what’s happening -- injuries and fatalities are happening with children and you’re seeing what a big difference these car seats can make when they’re used correctly,” Poore said. “You almost can’t help but obsess about it with your own kids a little bit. It’s one of those when you know better, you do better.”

The car seat checkup event is completely free and is open to the public. It will take place on Friday from 10 a.m. until noon at North Charleston Fire Station 8. The address is 8045 Dorchester Rd. in North Charleston

Vassy said that if you are unable to make it to the event, they have inspection stations in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties. The inspections are free and take about 45 minutes. Both Vassy and Poore said anyone is welcome to contact them to get an inspection appointment set up, or you can call the site directly. The list of locations can be found by clicking the link here.