Keeping Kids Safe One Properly Installed Car Seat at a Time

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By Dawn Klavon

On Feb. 22, 2022, a 10-month-old infant boy was killed in a fatal head-on collision between a semi-truck and
a pickup truck near Lenwood, California. According to the California Highway Patrol, the infant was “improperly restrained.”

Earlier in February, a rear-end crash in Victorville, California claimed the life of a 4-month-old boy. A preliminary accident report indicated the infant was also not properly restrained, according to the Victorville Daily Press.

Saving Prince William’s Littles

Locally, Prince William organizations like Saving Prince William’s Littles exist to hold community child safety seat inspections and encourage everyone to have their child safety seats inspected throughout the year. Child restraint devices must be properly used and meet standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation, but their research shows that about 75% of car seats are installed improperly.

“At any moment anything can happen, on any type of road,” said Woodbridge parent Erica McPherson. “We honestly have to understand the importance of having proper safety measures in place.”

Saving Prince William’s Littles holds regular free events across the county for car seat inspections. At the car seat inspection events, the experts look to see if the car seat is in the front or the back seat, if it’s near an air bag, and the direction of the car seat. Sometimes the child safety seat should face the rear of the car. At other times, it’s appropriate for the child seat to face forward, typically depending on the child’s age. Saving Prince William’s Littles officials recommend parents read up on car seat installation, but if that’s not enough, they can turn to the experts.

“There are so many intricacies and how certain car seats fit certain children in certain vehicles,” said Claire Szanyi, President of Saving Prince William’s Littles non-profit organization. “There’s definitely a degree of help when you are there and can be hands-on, in-person with a caregiver.”

Szanyi said installation has become more confusing over the past few years, as technology improves, both in vehicles and car seats. Somehow, it has left caregivers ignorant about the safest installation methods for car seats. Car seat experts look for selection, direction, location, and installation of the seats. Parents can learn more about each facet of the installation at the Saving Prince William’s Littles car seat events.

“We also want to walk parents through how to put the baby or child in the car seat itself and what to look for in terms of what is good,” Szanyi said.

They Filled a Need

There is a great need for the organization’s services. Saving Prince William’s Littles (One Car Seat at a Time) was founded in September of 2017 by Szanyi in an effort to bring additional car seat safety awareness to their community. It was the offspring of a group in Loudoun County doing the same community service. Their certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians teach caregivers how to correctly install children’s car seats and make sure their children are riding as safely as possible.

“Our main thing is to ensure that the caregiver is the last one touching that seat and they are fully empowered to be able to install their car seat themselves,” Szanyi said. “It doesn’t matter if I can install their car seat once they leave; if something occurs, they have to take the car seat out, they have to be able to put it back in themselves — the main thing truly is education.”

The non-profit organization provides these free car seat check events at least once a month throughout Prince William, attends community events to provide car seat education, and coordinates events to train new Child Passenger Safety Technicians.

Mark Your Calendar

The following Car Seat Check events are planned in the next few months.
May 1: UVA Haymarket Medical Center – 12:00 noon
May 15: Joyce Koons Honda GMC Manassas, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
June 11: Target Dumfries, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
July 23: UVA Haymarket Medical Center, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Learning how to properly install your child’s car seat is an essential part of parenting, McPherson said, adding “It teaches the essence and the importance of how to keep a child safe.”

For more information or to register for events or updates from Saving Prince William’s Littles, please check out their website or Facebook page.

Dawn Klavon is a journalist, author, media director and recent transplant to NOVA. She thrives on juggling multiple projects, discovering local hot spots, consuming blue crab and conquering sudoku puzzles. Dawn can be reached at dklavon@princewilliamliving.com.

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