It's statistics - like 90 percent of car seat users are using them incorrectly and motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of children ages 1 to 14 - that are behind a number of programs aimed at educating the public on the proper use of child restraints.
On Wednesday, health officials with the Cumberland Valley District Health Department, in conjunction with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, distributed car and booster seats to the public outside the Harlan Wal-Mart from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Officials also helped identify defective car seats and instructed a number of parents and guardians on how to effectively restrain children depending on their age and weight. The program is held twice a year in Harlan County, in the spring and fall.
Thomas D. Haynes, a registered nurse and regional coordinator for the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, said those responsible for securing children in vehicles are encouraged to “do two things.”
“Read the owner's manual that comes with the vehicle (on how to correctly install safety seats) and the owner's manual that comes with the car seat,” he said.
Haynes said the goal of the child passenger safety programs is to educate the public on the proper installation and use of safety seats, while also locating defective car or booster seats and providing secure ones.
“We want them to leave safer than when they came in,” he said.
Haynes said Harlan County has two certified child passenger safety technicians.
Tabitha Sage, of Evarts, said she learned of Wednesday's program through the local health department. Sage is expecting her first child in December and said she wanted to make sure the car seat she had, purchased at a yard sale, was safe.
“If it's not, I want to buy a new one,” she said.
A number of parents like Sage who aren't sure if their child's safety seat is properly installed or fitted for their child turn to their local health departments.
And many are often surprised to learn that major injuries among children, and in some cases fatalities, can result from minor accidents, all because the child was improperly restrained, Haynes said.
According to the state's Transportation Cabinet, all infants should ride rear-facing in a car seat in the back seat until they have reached at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds. If the child reaches 20 pounds before his or her first birthday, it is recommended that child remain rear-facing in the car seat. An infant seat should never be placed in front of an airbag.
There are two types of rear-facing seats: infant-only seats and convertible seats. Convertible seats can be used rear-facing for infants, and then converted to a forward-facing position.
Booster seats can be used for children who are more than a year old and weigh more than 20 pounds. They can be used up to 80 pounds.
Children 12 years and younger should ride in the back seat of a vehicle where statistics show they are 61 percent safer. The center rear is generally considered the safest position.
If a seat belt does not fit a child correctly, that child should stay in a booster seat until the seat belt fits correctly. This is usually when the child reaches about 4 feet 9 inches in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age, according to the Transportation Cabinet.