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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Health Unit emphasizes child car seat safety

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fulton County Health Unit Administrator Wanda Koelling puts finishing touches on a display to educate people about child car seat safety. The display, which also includes free information on other injury prevention topics, is open to the public through April in the health unit lobby at 510 South Main Street. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
For National Public Health Week, April 2-8, local Arkansas Department of Health offices chose an educational topic to emphasize ways their communities can prevent injury and disease.

The Fulton County Health Unit decided to focus on child car seat safety.

"There is a great need to educate people about child safety seats," Fulton County Health Unit Administrator Wanda Koelling said, since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14.

"Correctly used, safety seats reduce the risk of death as much as 71 percent, but nearly 73 percent of child restraints are not installed or used correctly," Koelling explained.

On Monday, April 2, the health unit offered free child safety seats, and a trained professional to install them.

"We had three people come in for seats on that day," Koelling said.

Part of the day, Viola Fire Chief and Reserve Deputy Boyd Dailey was present to show people how to correctly install and use child safety seats.

Every two years, Dailey takes a class in Little

Rock, at his own expense, to be certified as a child passenger safety technician.

"Boyd gets certified to help us get a grant each year to buy and distribute child safety seats to protect children in the community," Koelling said. "Renewing the grant each year is one of our Hometown Health Coalition programs."

"When I check a car seat, the main thing I see is, a lot of people don't know how to put them in correctly," Dailey said. "They just put the seat in the car and strap it in with the seat belt."

According to Dailey, it is crucial that the seat belt is adjusted so that the car seat is held firmly in place.

"If the car seat is not tightly secured, it will move in an accident, and that is when injuries can occur," Dailey said.

As a law enforcement officer, Dailey added he often finds motorists who have child car seats installed, but their children are not using them.

"If I see kids in a car and they are not restrained, I am going to pull the car over and issue a ticket," Dailey said. "That is something most departments emphasize, because car seats can save lives and reduce injuries."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be transported in the back seat of a vehicle, in a rear- facing seat with its own harness, until they are at least one year old and at least 20 pounds.

Children should remain in the back seat with a forward facing seat with its own harness until they are 40 to 65 pounds. Each seat has its own weight and height limit, which parents should follow.

Once a child weighs at least 40 pounds, the child should ride in a booster seat in the back seat, until they are at least four foot-nine inches tall. Booster seats must be used with a lap and shoulder belt -- never a lap-only belt.

Before being allowed to use a vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt, a child should be able to sit up with knees bent at the edge of the vehicle seat. The seat belt shoulder strap should fit comfortably across the chest -- not across the neck -- and the seat belt lap strap should fit low and tight across the upper thighs.

Administrator Koelling added free car seats are available at the health unit to those who cannot afford to purchase their own, as long as the Healthy Hometown grant holds out.

"We are able to supply seats to our patients who need them for their children, but the program is available to anyone with a need," Koelling said.

During National Public Health week, the Fulton County Health Unit put up a display table of child safety seats and booster seats, and proper-use brochures in its lobby. The display also includes other free injury and disease prevention information.

While Public Health Week ended April 8, the display will remain up through the month of April, and the public is invited to check out the information during the health unit's regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Fulton County Health Unit is located at 510 South Main Street (Highway 9) in Salem.

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