ENCINITAS — More than 25 car seats were confiscated and replaced with new seats from the Pacific Safety Council on April 21 at a car seat safety inspection from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station at 191 N. El Camino Real.
Several certified child safety seat technicians were on site from various agencies, and helped properly buckle car seats as well as inspect them and make sure they were located in the best location in the vehicle.
Kristina Nehls, a crime prevention specialist for San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, helped parents at the Child Passenger Safety Day event.
She said she has installed more than 300 car seats, and that 97 percent of child seats are improperly installed.
Amanda Yax, of San Marcos, took her 13-month-old son’s car seat to the inspection because she said she recently got him a nicer car seat, but it was also more complicated.
“I had a heck of a time installing it. It’s nice to have help,” she said.
Nehls inspected the seat while Yax’s baby was in it and said that she noticed right away that the harness was too loose.
“It needs to be snug against the shoulders. One thing I tell parents is that if they (kids) complain or cry, then it’s perfect,” she said, and jokingly added, “as long as he’s breathing.”
But it’s no joke that car crashes are the top causes of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
The NHTSA reports that nearly 9,000 lives were saved by the use of child car seats from 1975 to 2008.
Their website, nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS, provides detailed safety seat information for parents, including a place online to register a car seat and sign up for notification of any recalls or defects.
It also has an “ease of use” rating system for various car seat manufacturers.
“Car seats are (each) very, very different,” said Loralee Olejnik, an emergency medical technician for San Diego Medical Services.
“Our goal is to teach them how to put a car seat in. We do a mini lesson with each parent, as well as check for a recall,” she said.
She had helped Anne Emfinger of Oceanside, who attended the event with her new 13-pound baby and her 29-pound daughter, who both travel in rear-facing seats.
She said she learned that she shouldn’t have had the bigger seat buckled next to the infant carrier because if a crash occurred, the larger seat’s close proximity to the smaller one would impede the smaller seat’s ability to rock forward as it’s designed to do.
Specialists were on site from the Pacific Safety Council based in San Diego, which offers car seat safety classes and free car seats to qualifying families.
But on April 21, car seats that were found to be out of code or recalled were taken out of cars and tossed into a large dumpster.
In return, parents were provided with a new, in-the-box replacement.
Mirna Varela was a technician at the event from the safety council and said that there are several reasons a car seat may no longer be safe, one of which includes it being expired.
She said several seats were confiscated and replaced because they were too old, and that seats should only still be in use up to six years after the manufactured date.
Most car seats’ manufactured dates are on a sticker or imprinted onto the back or sides of the seat, she said.
In all, Pacific Safety Council gave about 27 seats away, and Varela said some of the other reasons were that parents “didn’t know the history or they washed the harness.”
She said if the actual car seat straps (harness) are laundered, they lose their effectiveness because they stretch from their original size.
So knowing the history of a used car seat is important, as well, such as knowing whether or not the straps have been washed, she said.
A large box of colorful swimming pool noodles were also on site, and Heather Clark, crime prevention specialist from the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, had cut about a footlong piece off of a noodle and permanently propped it under a seat.
Scott Duchow, of Vista, was one of the last attendees of the day, of about 40 vehicles that received car seat inspections.
He said he rushed to get to the event, and even came alone without his wife or 6-month-old son so that he could get there before it had ended.
He said that he and his wife had purchased a larger car seat because his baby had begun leaning forward and sitting up in his rear facing infant carrier.
“We looked at it and were going to put it in a few weeks ago, and didn’t know how,” he said.
Both Clark and Nehls worked to install Duchow’s new seat, and the pool noodle became necessary to level the seat at a 45-degree angle, which is the proper angle for infants from newborn to 1 year old.
Clark said that parents who want a car seat inspection or installation can schedule a free appointment at the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, at (760) 966-3587.
The event was held in the parking lot below the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, and several storefront retailers also participated by donating items such as refreshments or activities for children.
Participants included Cute as a Bug Resale, Art Soup drop in art studio, Insurance Women of North County San Diego County and State Farm Insurance.