Members from various Carbon County children's organizations had the opportunity to learn more about the importance of car seat safety recently.
During the bimonthly meeting of the Carbon County Children and Family Collaborative on Wednesday, State Trooper Shannon Yorke of the Hazleton barracks taught the group about the different types of car seats available, the laws surrounding children in cars, and how to properly secure a child into a seat.
Yorke, who is a certified safety seat technician, has been teaching about car seat safety for nearly a decade.
"A lot of people are confused as to what our actual laws are when it comes to child passenger safety," she said. "In Pennsylvania, it used to be that a child 0 to 4 years of age had to be in some type of child passenger seat. But what about the children after 4 years of age?"
She explained that in the past it used to be that after the child turns 4, it was acceptable to put him in a regular-sized vehicle seat, but that was actually putting the child in a dangerous position in the case of an accident.
"They're not meant to fit into that vehicle seat. Those seats are meant for adults," Yorke said. "The seat belt doesn't fit them like it does an adult."
The law was then changed to state that a child age 4 to 8 must be in a booster seat. After the age of 8, up until the child is 18, he must be seat belted in the vehicle, no matter where he is sitting.
Yorke stated that if the child is not at least four-foot, nine-inches tall, he should not be placed in a regular vehicle seat no matter what his age. This is because a seat belt still would not fit properly across the child's lap and chest. She recommends parents use their own discretion to determine when their child is ready to graduate from a booster seat after the age of 8.
She then showed four types of car seats that parents can use when transporting a child. They include infant seats, convertible seats, and high back or low back booster seats.
According to the law, parents must keep their child in a rear facing car seat infant carriers and then convertible seats until the age of 1 and 20 pounds, but Yorke recommends keeping children in a rear facing seat until the age of 2. That way, in the case of an accident, Yorke explained, the child is safer because he is riding into the force of the collision instead of against it.
"The longer you could keep a child rear facing, the safer it is for them," she said.
Once the child meets the weight/age requirement to face forward, they can be placed in convertible seats, which can flip from rear facing to forward facing; or high back and low back booster seats. High back booster seats are recommended in vehicles that do not have an adjustable headrest behind the child. This is to help support the head and neck.
She also stressed that it is critical that parents register the car seat, as well as make sure the seat has not expired.
On the bottom of every car seat, Yorke said, is a manufacturer's sticker that lists the manufacture date of the seat. She said a seat should be replaced after six years of use.
Yorke then explained about the importance of properly installing the car seat in the vehicle.
The seat should not move more than one inch in either direction and fit snugly into the seat.
There is help available to make sure seats are secured correctly. They include car seat checkups, which occur throughout the county periodically; and at various state police barracks monthly.
During a car seat checkup, certified technicians look at the seat to see if it is the proper size for the child, that it is installed correctly, is not older than six years, and that there are no recalls for that model.
She does not recommend buying the car seat secondhand, because there is no way to know if that seat was involved in a crash or if it is expired.
One point that Yorke stressed during her presentation was to "never, ever, ever put a rear facing car seat in front of an active air bag."
This is because it can cause serious injury to the child or even death in the event of a crash.
She ended by providing a website to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a site that provides information about car seats and car safety. The website is http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS.
In other matters, the group discussed the legislative breakfast that it is being planned. The event is slated for July 30, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Lehighton Recreation Center.
Cheri Mae Santore, director of the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, said that the event, which is coordinated by the Carbon County Interagency Council, in partnership with the Child and Family Collaborative, will help provide area legislators and candidates with information about various children and family groups in the county; and the effects that further cuts in state and federal funds would have on the programs currently offered.
The brunch will include six speakers and is open to the public. The cost is $10 $5 to cover the cost of the meal and $5 to be used for scholarships and grants.
Jeanne Miller, co-chairperson of the collaborative, also announced that the ad hoc committee for exploring community schools has been working on determining areas of strengths and weaknesses in elementary, middle and high schools in the county.
A retreat at the Carbon County MH/MR branch took place on April 30.
During that meeting, the group composed a list of gaps that need to be addressed.
A full report, she explained, will be discussed at the collaborative's next meeting.