Parents get safety-seat lessons State troopers provide installation instructions

July 03, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

When Diane Turner heard that four out of five child safety seats statewide are improperly used, the 40-year-old mother worried that hers was one.

So she brought her Mazda, the seat and her 2-year-old daughter, Paris McKinney, to a drive-through safety program yesterday and watched experts install her seat correctly.

"I've been wondering for a long time how to get that seat in right," said the Woodlawn resident after the installation. "I don't want [anything] to happen to this precious cargo."

Officials hope the free safety checkpoint -- part of the Maryland State Police's safety-seat education campaign -- will reduce the use of recalled seats, or ones that are the wrong size or don't work with the parents' vehicle. The well-being -- and lives -- of children could depend on it, they said.

"With as much as you love your children, can you afford to trust [their safety] to luck?" said Barbara Beckett, executive director of the Maryland Committee for Safety Belt Use.

During the seven-hour program at the Reisterstown Road Plaza parking lot, state troopers discovered everything from loosely installed seats and improperly buckled harnesses to seats too big or too small for the occupants. In an accident, any of those problems could cause a child to be ejected from the seat, they said.

"We're trying to get the word out," said Sgt. David Perry, who coordinated the program.

State law requires that children younger than 4 or weighing 40 pounds or less ride in safety seats.

Shontaye Jeffery, a specialist in child passenger safety with Maryland Kids In Safety Seats (KISS), said it's also best to put older children weighing up to 80 pounds in safety seats -- such as a booster.

During the first hour, troopers installed 30 seats, including one for Donna Ginsburg, 26, of Owings Mills, whose family takes trips in rental cars. She wanted to be sure she could install the seat correctly each time it has to be moved.

The seat "was OK when we got here," she said. "We're hoping it's going to be much better now."

Ginsburg pulled up to one of the eight colorful, drive-through tents with her daughter, Rebekah, 10 months, and watched as troopers worked in her green Saturn.

Loudspeakers blasted out Macarena music, and children played with toys as the troopers assisted parents.

Sharron Bell, 31, mother of six children, got two free new seats -- donated by the program's sponsors -- that better fit her two sons.

In another tent was Denise Banner-Lach, 30, whose baby is due in three weeks. "I figured I'd get started right at the beginning," she said.

Also seeking advice and expertise were grandparents and day care providers and a mother who had given birth several days before.

"This was a great thing to have," said Miriam Stern, 57, who has a seat for grandson Ryan Carey, 19 months. "It's definitely a peace-of-mind to know it's in safely. When we leave here, we're going to fix our daughter's."

Information on child safety seats and checkpoint events: Maryland Kids In Safety Seats, 800-370-SEAT.

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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