Officials urge child seat safety

CONYERS - A crying toddler, the extra time spent or even lack of know-how are not valid excuses for not using a child safety seat and making sure children are properly buckled in, according to officials with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

"It can be challenging, but the alternative is worse," said Bob Dallas, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Young lives are at stake, explained representatives from the state safety office, Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, the Newton County Sheriff's Office, as well as fire and emergency services officials during a press conference Thursday morning hosted by the University of Georgia's Traffic Injury Prevention Institute in Conyers.

The state and local partnership used Thursday's event to spread the word about proper use of child restraint seats, in line with the National Child Passenger Safety Week that runs through Friday.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington spoke during the event. Wigington told of a grave incident he witnessed where a child was killed because a man did not secure the boy in the vehicle. The boy opened the door while the car was in motion and the man inadvertently ran over his grandson.

"Now, how would you like to have that memory as a grandparent?" the sheriff asked during the press conference.

"One thing that is very unique this time is the fact that we're focusing on grandparents," Dallas said.

Times are changing, explained Dallas, and more grandparents are becoming the heads of households in nuclear families.

In fact, grandparents serving as the primary caregiver is the fastest growing type of family, explained University of Georgia professor Don Bower.

"Some grandparents have told me there's just too much to know about child safety seats," Bower said during the press conference, mentioning how many never used or experienced safety seats. "This is a new habit for them to learn."

"Too often we find people not doing it exactly right," Dallas said.

Besides the changing driving culture, Dallas explained how the physical circumstances, like vision and hearing, change as people age and can affect driving.

"The ability to turn their neck will change," Dallas added, which contributes to limited visibility.

Installing and adjusting child safety seats take an estimated 15 to 30 minutes, explained Frankie Jones, director of the GTIPI. Then, for every trip after that, it should take less than five minutes to properly put children in their seat.

It just takes reading both the car seat and vehicle manuals in order to get the right initial fit.

"You need to find the right seat that works for the car and the child," Jones said. "Once you make the good fit, it's not much more than buckling a seat belt."

Alena Parker can be reached at alena.parker@rockdalecitizen.com.