Safety experts urge parents to check child seats for mistakes

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FISHERS (March 23, 2016) - Two weeks after a violent car crash in Lawrence took the life of a 20-year-old father and his 1-year-old son, safety experts are urging all parents to take steps to make sure their own children are properly restrained in their vehicles.

“Because we see on an all too frequent basis, the devastating results of motor vehicle crashes where there are child or infant fatalities,” said Lawrence Police Chief David Hofmann.  “What we’re talking about here is the absolute most precious, innocent, deserving cargo that you can imagine that you would ever carry in a car.”

Robert Valentine III and his 1-year-old son, Robert Valentine IV, both died after a March 9 crash on Pendleton Pike when police say the father veered across the center line into oncoming traffic.  The child’s mother and three other children were injured in the crash and are now recovering.

Investigators determined that the 1-year-old boy died as a result of being improperly fastened into a car seat that was the wrong size for him.  The child remained in the car seat, but suffered severe trauma because he was not safely secured.

“I believe the parents were doing what they thought was right,” Hofmann said.  “Obviously, there was a car seat there, but there were some installation issues.”

On Wednesday, Lawrence Police organized a safety demonstration with officials from Saint Vincent Hospital in Fishers, and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.  The demonstration was intended to highlight the importance of child seat safety.

“Just about every time I do a car seat safety check here at Fishers I run into at least one thing that the parents are doing wrong,” said Amanda Craft, a registered car seat safety technician.

Craft said the most common mistakes she sees include seats and seat bases that are installed too loosely in a vehicle.  She said a properly installed seat or base should not be able to move more than one inch once it is tightly fastened.  She also said many parents leave their children’s shoulder too loose.  A parent can tell if a shoulder strap is tight enough by trying to pinch a fold in the strap after it is buckled, Craft said.  If you can’t pinch the strap together, it’s tight enough.

“If those harnesses are not tight enough, that child can come right out of the car seat,” Craft said.

Another common mistake parents make is hanging dangling toys, designed to entertain a child.  The toys are popular in stores, Craft said, but the car seats are not crash tested with toys or any other items attached.  The dangling toys can become dangerous projectiles in a crash.

Since rules and guidelines regarding child seats tend to change every few years, experts say the best way to make sure you’re doing things right is to visit a Child Seat Inspection site.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute maintains a network of more than 100 inspection locations across the state of Indiana.  At those sites, you can have an expert go through your car with your kids and check to make sure everything is properly installed and fastened.  Some locations require you to call ahead and schedule an appointment.  At others, you can simply drive up.

If you want to learn more about rules and guidelines regarding child seat safety, you can visit the ICJI website dedicated to car safety.

You can find a full list of Child Seat Inspection sites here.

You can find a map of those inspection locations here.

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