Health district to offer free car seat checks

BENTON-FRANKLIN HEALTH DISTRICT NEWS RELEASE -- Child safety seat laws and requirements are constantly evolving and can be confusing to parents and caregivers. Just when parents think they have mastered use and installation of a car seat, laws and guidelines change, such as a new rule that went into effect this month.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of children ages 2 to 14, but properly installed car seats and correct use of booster seats and seatbelts significantly reduce the risk of death or injury in crashes. "The most frightening statistic is that 73 % of all car seats are not installed correctly," said Kathleen Clary-Cooke, coordinator of Safe Kids Benton-Franklin. "And it's difficult to keep up with rules, guidelines, and laws that are constantly changing, like the new rules regarding the LATCH System."

Starting this month, parents should not use the lower anchors of the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system if the child and seat combined exceed 65 pounds. Once the child and seat exceed 65 pounds, seats should be secured with safety belts instead of the lower anchors. The top tether should still be used for forward-facing car seats. In effect since 2002, LATCH was designed to make it easier to install child safety seats.

Safe Kids Benton-Franklin urges parents and caregivers to have their car seats and booster seats checked out by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Free car seat checks are offered the 2nd Wednesday of every month by appointment from 10 am to 2pm in Kennewick.

"We do the checks by appointment to ensure that we have enough volunteers and that people aren't kept waiting," said Clary-Cooke. "And the facility is enclosed, so it doesn't matter if it's raining or windy." The Fit Site is held at the Washington State Patrol Headquarters in Kennewick at 143302 Law Lane, just off Highway 395. The next event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. To schedule an appointment, call (509) 734-7029. For more information, call Safe Kids at (509) 460-4214.