Looking For..?
Department Banner

 

 

 

Public Health Column for the Times-News

Every child deserves to ride safely

Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2016

By KIM HORTON
Times-News Columnist

It's often what happens behind the scenes that impacts the health of a community.

Take child passenger safety for example. We can all agree that ensuring that children are safe while traveling in a car is the most important precaution a parent should take before even starting the motor. But how many parents feel confident that they have correctly installed a car seat that will protect their child in a collision? And what if you can't even afford a car seat? Is there help available?

These are important questions to consider because according to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, motor vehicle deaths account for the majority of unintentional deaths among children ages birth to 17. Nationwide, 26 percent of children ages 8 and under who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014 were not restrained by an age-appropriate device such as an infant car seat, booster seat or seat belt.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 59 percent of car seats are not used correctly. Many children ride in car seats that have been installed incorrectly or are in the wrong car seats for their age and size.

There is help available to address this, and it is offered weekly at the Department of Public Health. The agency provides a hands-on Child Passenger Safety (CPS) program that covers North Carolina child restraint recommendations and laws that apply to children ages newborn to 8. Kaye Brownlee, health educator and certified CPS technician, instructs parents on car seat usage and proper installation. A free car seat is given to parents and caregivers of children who are facing financial hardship and are unable to purchase a new car seat upon completing the instruction.

Brownlee has been leading the program successfully for over 20 years. Between 2011-2015, 301 parents learned how to keep their children safe while traveling, and 327 car seats/booster seats were provided to participants.

The need for free car seats is great. Brownlee can attest to receiving weekly calls for assistance. Although she is the resource for assisting parents in locating free or reduced price infant and booster seats, it's still a difficult conversation to tell a new parent that the Health Department is out of free car seats.

She hopes that won't happen for a while because of some recent good news. In November, the Community Foundation of Henderson County awarded a $5,000 grant to be used toward the CPS Program. According to Brownlee, the grant will provide additional resources to purchase car seats for those with financial needs.

Yet the success of the program relies on collaboration with other county agencies and organizations that partner and refer parents, including Smart Start of Henderson County, the Department of Social Services, the Adolescent Parenting Program, Western Carolina Community Action, SafeLight, the Rescue Mission and now the Community Foundation of Henderson County.

"Evidence indicates that child restraint systems are the most effective way to protect young children involved in motor vehicle crashes," said Brownlee.

She offered some important tips that parents might not know:

  • Check the label on your car seat to make sure it's appropriate for your child's age, weight and height.
  • Your car seat has an expiration date — usually about six years. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it is still safe.
  • Keep all children in a back seat until they are 13.
  • Keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until at least age two.
  • Buy a used car seat only if you know its full crash history. Buy it from someone you know, not from a thrift store or over the internet.

Sometimes parents wonder if a child safety seat needs to be replaced after an accident. Brownlee referenced guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which states that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
  • The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy; and
  • There is no visible damage to the safety seat.

"Equipping parents with the resources they need to protect their child from injury or death is my goal," Brownlee said. "Every child deserves to ride safely, and this program helps to make sure that happens."

She encourages parents and caregivers to call her with any questions about child passenger safety. If you'd like her to double check your car seat installation, she's happy to do so. For more information or to register for a class, contact her at 828-694-6066. For a list of additional local CPS technicians, visit cert.safekids.org.

The Child Passenger Safety program is one of many programs the Health Department offers as part of its mission to promote, protect and advance the health and wellness of our community. For more information, visit hendersoncountync.org/health.


Kim Horton is the communications manager at the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at khorton@hendersoncountync.org.

Copyright © 2016 BlueRidgeNow.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.



Department of Public Health • 1200 Spartanburg Highway, Suite 100 • Hendersonville, NC 28792 • (828) 692-4223