Saving lives one safety seat at a time
It took a tragic accident to demonstrate to Ed Beaudette and Heidi Obenoskey the importance of having a properly installed car safety seat in their vehicle.
“I’m a parent who found out the hard way that I didn’t have my car seat installed properly,” Beaudette said. “My wife and I were in an accident just outside of Truckee in July 2003 and our 9-month-old daughter was killed.
“We found out afterward that we didn’t have our car seat installed properly, so it’s become our mission to make sure that doesn’t happen to any other parents.”
Obenoskey said it’s one thing to go through an accident and have your child die, but when you know that you could have learned something to possibly prevent it from happening and you didn’t do it, “it just makes it so many times worse.”
Beaudette and Obenoskey’s mission led them to found Safe Kids Nevada County, a local chapter of the National Safe Kids Campaign dedicated to preventing unintentional injuries in kids under 14. And through a partnership with AAA of California, they will be at Saturday’s Latino Health Faire at Truckee Elementary to provide car seat inspections as well as free car seats to parents who need them.
According to Beaudette, it’s easy to understand how the current generation of parents might not understand the intricacies of proper car seat installation.
“Here in Nevada County we are finding that we are in the high 90 percent range of misuse,” Beaudette said. “There are still parents who don’t use car seats at all. But of the parents who are using car seats, we’re still finding in Nevada County that more than 95 percent of those seats are not installed properly.
“Literally I could go to the Safeway parking lot in Truckee and check every car seat and I might find one that’s installed properly.”
Beaudette said part of the reason for those numbers is that parents of today were raised before car seats were widely used, and thus are more likely to feel that just putting their child in a car seat is enough.
Common mistakes, according to Beaudette, include not installing the seat tightly enough, not adjusting the straps of the seat to fit the child in the seat, having a seat that isn’t designed for a child’s age and/or weight or owning a seat that has been recalled by the manufacturer for safety reasons.
To become licensed car seat inspectors, Beaudette and Obenoskey went through 32 hours of training and then had to demonstrate their knowledge via a written test and hands-on demonstration.
At the Latino Health Faire on Saturday, they will share their knowledge with parents by evaluating how a child safety seat was installed when it was brought in, making sure the seat is appropriate for the child it’s intended for, making sure the seat hasn’t been recalled by the manufacturer, demonstrating how to properly install the seat in the car, and then allowing the parent to install it correctly themselves.
“We don’t make them experts, we just make them experts in their car,” Obenoskey said.
If, during their inspection, Beaudette and Obenoskey find that the seat brought in is not suitable for the child it’s being used for, they will provide a new child seat free of charge courtesy of AAA. In addition, parents who do not have child seats can stop by the Faire and pick one up for free.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that child leaves there safer than they came in,” Beaudette said.
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