Const. Tanya Schwartz has witnessed many car accidents on the job.
In one serious incident, a child was in the vehicle at the time of the accident but was safe because “they were in their seat correctly,” the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer said.
“We know that car seats and child restraint systems save lives,” said Schwartz.
But that’s not the case if the seats are not used correctly.
“If your car seat is not installed correctly, or the child is actually in a car seat that is not their right size and fit, it can be a case where the child can slip out of the car seat and they could get injured or hurt. If the child is not at the right size, weight, height and age for a booster seat, they can have some internal damages if the seat belt is not on them correctly.”
Shwartz was volunteering over the weekend at a car seat safety check organized by Kids in Safe Seats in St. John’s.
The event was held to help parents ensure their car seats were installed properly.
Shelley Bauer is a volunteer with Kids in Safe Seats.
“Having the safest car seat or most expensive car seat in the world won’t save your kid if it isn’t in the car properly,” she said.
A representative with Child Safety Link, a children’s injury prevention program, flew into St. John’s from Halifax for the occasion.
Katherine Hutka was involved with a roadside checkpoint report published by the program in Nova Scotia in 2012.
She said in roadside checks that year, it was found that 65 to 80 per cent of harnessed car seats were installed or used incorrectly.
As well, 30 per cent of children sitting in a booster seat were not yet heavy enough to meet the minimum requirements to use a booster seat, and 50 per cent of children who were using a seat belt alone were not yet safe or legal to do so.
“In talking to the people who are here (in St. John’s), the volunteers on the ground… I would say that the numbers are very similar,” said Hutka. “I think that we have really similar populations and we’ve been also working towards the same goals.”
While people at the event said parents are using car restraint systems the best they know how, it would be worth their while to check in with those who are trained in proper use and installation to double check.
“Sometimes they don’t even know that it’s not installed the proper way, so that’s why we’re here – to give that information,” said Schwartz.
That’s also why Katherine Vokurka attended the safety check.
“I figured, why not have someone look at it and make sure I’m doing things right?”
Vokurka attended the event with her partner and their child, as well as her sister and niece because her niece frequently travels in her car.
Vokurka said she learned a couple of new things because of the event.
“I learned that there’s a second way of installing my car seat – I only really knew about the seat belt way. And I just heard that there’s a way you’re supposed to tuck the seat belt in that I wasn’t doing. So, I’m very happy. Even learning one thing would have been a success in my opinion.”
Anyone who missed the safety check on the weekend can still get assistance from Kids in Safe Seats through their Facebook page of the same name.
People can also call Child Safety Link with car seat-related questions at 1-866-288-1388, and find car seat safety resources on their website at www.childsafetylink.ca.