ELIZABETHTOWN Four out of five car seats for children are improperly installed - something the Essex County Public Health Agency wants to change.
The department is currently offering about 25 free car and booster seats to parents and primary caregivers. New York State requires that children under four be restrained in a federally approved car seat while riding in a motor vehicle. Children ages four through six are required to use a booster seat, which help ensure the correct fit of seat belts.
"Every seat is different - they're tough to get in," said Cathy McMahon, a health educator. "It becomes a real issue."
Chris Carpenter, a public health nurses and car seat technician, said the seats were available through a BLOCK grant the county had applied for. There are several types available, which are selected for children by size and weight requirements.
Carpenter said it took about 15-20 minutes to install a seat properly. All car seats are different, and should be selected to fit car model, and child's size. Checks are available by appointment, or at announced events.
Elizabethtown resident Jessica Buehler took advantage of the free car seat program to get a new booster seat for her older son, Oakley. When Carpenter checked the installation of a car seat for Buehler's younger son, Boden, she discovered that Buehler was one of the lucky ones - the seat had been installed correctly.
Buehler said the seats helped provide her peace of mind.
"My kids are the most important thing on the planet to me, and I need to make sure they're safe," said Buehler.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. Most parrents believe they are using child safety seats properly, but it is esitmated that four out of five children are improperly restained.
Car seat safety checks are performed by Essex County Public Health, the Essex County Sheriff's Department, and at the Ray Brook Police Barracks.
For information on obtaining a free seat, call Public Health 873-3500.