If you have a fire, you should turn to your local fire department. But if you have a car seat that needs to be installed, you should turn to Anita Biles.
Parents have routinely gone to firefighters to learn how to install car seats, but in Clark County they aren’t certified. However, Biles along with another employee at the Clark County Combined Health District, are certified technicians and can help install all models of car seats. While most seats come with instructions, Biles said most parents still don’t do it right.
“About 97 percent of the car seats that we see come through are secured improperly,” Biles said. “It’s really important that we help guide the parents rather than doing it for them. We show them how to do it, so when they install it the next time, they know what they’re doing.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half the children who are injured or killed in auto accidents nationally are not properly restrained. This is especially imperative for infants. When a baby is properly buckled into a rear-facing car seat, the risk of receiving a fatal injury during a crash is reduced 71 percent, according to the administration.
Most of the time, Biles said parents do not have their car seats secured tight enough to the car seat, and the seat-belt straps are too loose around the child. A tight fit is what keeps them safe, she said. A car seat should move no more than an inch when shaken on the bottom, and you should not be able to fit more than one finger between the strap and the child after he or she is buckled. Also, she advises parents make sure the buckle rests along the child’s breastplate, not too close to the neck or their abdomen.
Often parents recall that they did not use car seats as children; however, Biles said there was much less traffic in years’ past and technology was different.
Due to new safety standards, infants should be placed in a rear-facing car seat for as long as the seat’s manufacturer allows, up to 30 pounds. When a child is at least one year old and 20 pounds, Biles said they can be placed in a front-facing convertible car seat. After a child reaches four years old and 40 pounds, a booster seat should be used. Children should sit in booster seats until they are at least eight years old or 4’9”, whichever happens first, according to federal guidelines.
Free assistance is available for car seat installation, but an appointment is needed. Call the health district at (937) 390-5600.