Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Child Seat Check Proves Critical; Mother Had Just Had Car Seats Safety-Test, Then There Was a Crash

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Child Seat Check Proves Critical; Mother Had Just Had Car Seats Safety-Test, Then There Was a Crash

Article excerpt

Byline: VIRGINIA J. PILLSBURY

Dottie and Frank Akel will always be thankful that she had their sons' car seats safety-tested, as she and the two boys were in a car accident later that same day.

Like most mothers, Akel couldn't wait for her baby Joshua to reach the 1-year, 20-pound limit for a rear-facing car seat. She was ready for him to face forward, and the pediatrician gave the OK at Joshua's 1-year checkup.

On a whim, she decided to have the car seats checked at a car seat safety check offered by local police officers in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation safety office.

"Something just told me to have it done," Akel remembers. The officers urged her to keep Joshua facing to the rear longer. She complied.

On her way home from that checkpoint, Akel said, the sport utility vehicle she, her son Jacob, 3, and Joshua were in was rear-ended by a car going about 40 mph. The other car's driver was sent to the hospital. Akel and her sons were not hurt.

However, according to Capt. Bernita Bush, public information officer/public education for Clay County Department of Public Safety, had Joshua been facing forward in his car seat he might have been more likely to suffer injury.

"He could have received a head or a neck injury by facing forward," Bush said. "But by facing the rear, a 'ride down' dilutes the crash force."

With a ride down, the crash impact travels across the child's back so the force of the crash isn't targeted in one area and injury is less likely.

State law does not require children under a year old and less than 20 pounds to face the rear; it is only a guideline.

"Parents need to go above and beyond to do what is best for their children," says Bush, who also advocates keeping children in booster seats past the fourth birthday. "Lots of 4- to 8-year-old children are dying in car accidents because they are too small for adult seat belts to accommodate."

Karen Hanawalt of the DOT safety office, a certified instructor who has been involved in child safety since 1996, agrees that booster seats are important. …

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