Thursday, November 29, 2018

Car seat installation class could help save lives

By Lisa Knoll, Public Affairs Manager for southwest Kansas

Child passenger safety technician students use
their training to properly install car seats.  
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 2,600 children under the age of 13 are involved in a car crash daily.  That’s one child every 33 seconds.  While most families put kids in car seats, the latest research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 59 percent of car seats are not installed correctly.  As the District Six Public Affairs Manager for KDOT, I am all too familiar with the statistics.  In addition, I live in a county with a child safety belt usage rate of 81 percent, which is well below the state’s average of 90 percent. 

Remembering the confusion and frustration I felt installing and adjusting my daughter’s car seat, I enrolled in a three-day CPS technician certification class to make a difference in the lives of children and families in southwest Kansas.

My class included professionals from health care, EMS, police departments, KDOT and private individuals.  Our instructors were career law enforcement officers with more than 30 years of experience installing car seats and certifying technicians.  We all had one thing in common — a desire to make our communities safer for the children and families we serve.     
The first two-and-a-half days were intense — we discussed injury prevention, crash dynamics and seat belt systems. We also learned about car seats and studied car seat and vehicle manuals.  Our class completed several practice scenarios given a child’s age, height, weight and special needs.  We picked out the correct car seat and installed it in a vehicle multiple times. The class was also given five different car seat installations, we identified what was incorrect about each installation. 

Child passenger safety technician students use 
their training to properly install car seats.  
By lunch on the third day, we were ready for the final test. We hosted a car seat check lane at the Kansas Highway Patrol parking lot in Garden City.  Our instructors warned us that car seat installation was a bit of puzzle, and you never knew what to expect.  They were right.  Three cars, three seats and three children were part of the challenge, and each of them had unique scenarios.   

The first installation was basic and straight forward.  A mother-to-be arrived with an infant seat still in the box.  She was going to be induced that night, so the check lane came at the perfect time for her.  Two of my classmates showed her how to correctly install the seat and check the installation for future reference.

The second car’s occupants were an older gentleman and a preschool-age child who was in a forward-facing booster seat.  Three of our classmates greeted them and noticed right away that the seat was not correctly installed.  My classmates attached and tightened the top rear tether of the car seat, which reduces the risk of head injury in a crash.  They explained this to the caregiver so that he could correctly install the seat in the future.   
Inside the third car was a mom and an infant.  The rear-facing seat was already installed in the mother’s car, she just wanted us to check it.  My classmates noticed the level on the seat’s reading was off, which meant the seat was not positioned correctly.  They removed the seat and tried to install it again, but the seat belt didn’t lock in place like it was supposed to. 

Child passenger technician student reads
a car's manual to better understand how to
properly install a car seat for that vehicle. 
On closer inspection, they found that both seat belts in the back seat were faulty and would not lock the seat in place, which could put the infant in danger if there was a crash.  The only option was to install the seat using the vehicle’s LATCH system in the center back seat.  With the seat installed in the correct position according to the seat’s level, they realized the seat was in an almost upright position which was not safe for the infant.  When it was determined the level must not be working, the instructors were called over. After it was decided that the level was indeed faulty, another seat was provided and my classmates helped the mother correctly install.

It was a dizzying three days filled with information, demonstrations and practice.  In the end, thanks to our instructors, we have 10 newly certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians in southwest Kansas ready to assist parents.

If you are interested in learning more about child passenger safety or becoming a certified technician, visit

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