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Safety advocates educating now for pending new car seat law

Mike Desmond

Albany wants kids under the age of two facing backwards in their car seats. There is going to be an education program to persuade parents to do that, before a new law takes effect in two years.

More and more parents are already doing it. Research says it is much safer for infants to be facing backwards in their car seats if they are properly strapped in.

"If you look at the numbers from 2011-2015, nearly 1,900 children were injured in crashes," says AAA Government Affairs Director Elizabeth Carey. "Now about one-quarter of them weren't wearing any restraint at all. So we're hoping that this press conference today reminds everyone to make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up, especially those children under the age of two that they remain rear-facing because until now, with this law, these one-year-olds are really vulnerable."

"Our deputies have been encouraging parents for the last two years to use the rear-facing seat," says Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard. "The fact that it will soon become a law is certainly a wonderful thing. To the issues of the child safety seats, our deputies continue to do these seat belt safety fairs."

However, Deputy Aaron Naegely says about half the car seats he inspects at special events for parents are installed wrong. Naegely says the seats are often too loose to be helpful.

"We check to make sure there are no recalls on it. Then we check to make sure all the straps are positioned properly," Naegley says. "Sometimes you might have to do a height adjustment on the strap because, depending how the child is in the seat, if the child is rear-facing, you want the strap to come below the child's shoulder, up and over. If they're forward-facing, you want them to come from up and above down to their locking clip."

He also finds other problems.
"Another big thing we find is loose items in the vehicle," he says. "So we tell the parents, keep in mind that everything loose in your vehicle is traveling the speed of your vehicle. So, in the event of a car accident, the seat might do its job, but if you have tools or bottles of pop or anything laying around on the floor, that can also injure the child."

Naegley says he shows families how to properly assemble car seats, install them and then have parents do it as he watches.

Community Action Organization Executive Director Nathan Hare says most parents using his agency's centers deliver and pick up their kids by car.

"The Community Action Organization's primary focus is on the issues of the poor and the people that are near-poor," Hare says, "and guess who tends to be the people that don't have the right seats? The people who are poor or who are near-poor. So we have to have strategies to not only motivate people to make the priority decision that if you have $4 worth of resources, put those $4 toward protecting your child."