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Southern Regional offers free car seat checks

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A nursery rhyme may promise infants and toddlers "Mama will catch you," but Southern Regional Medical Center officials spent Wednesday telling new mothers and fathers that wasn't good enough.

Baby needs a car seat, and that car seat needs to be safely secured -- anchored, latched and belted.

"I wish Mama could catch the baby if there's an accident, but, if there's an accident, Mama won't have time." said Jenny Meyers, one of the experts showing parents how to properly secure safety seats.

According to the literature on child seats being handed out at the main entrance to the hospital's Women's Life Center by Meyers and Shannon Rakeshaw on Wednesday, properly used child safety seats can reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent for infants, and by 54 percent, for toddlers.

Child safety seats are often more technical than parents believe, Rakeshaw said.

"People need to read the manual. Oftentimes, they think they don't need to read the manual, like you can just pop the baby in and go. But there's a lot of little things they probably don't know," Rakeshaw said.

Details include the way the seat is latched into the car, making sure the back of the seat is secured tightly, making sure the child is facing backwards, at least for the first year, and until the child weighs more than 20 pounds.

Meyers and Rakeshaw first checked each seat against a list of recalled safety seats, since many products have been deemed unsafe by the manufacturers, after being distributed nationwide. They then secured the base of the infant seat in the back of a car -- using the anchoring latches that have come standard on all American vehicles since 2001 -- and then installed the seat, showing the parent how to do it properly at each step.

"OK, Dad," Meyers said to the very new father of a baby girl who was just old enough to leave the hospital. "I'm going to let you put your hands on it. There's a buckle over there, you will kind of point it in the other direction."

The two women were trained in proper child safety seat technique in a class at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They said it is important not just to secure the seat for the first time for the parents, but to show them how to do it, and how to check to see that the seat is secure.

"Hear it click?" Meyers asked the new father.

"Yes ma'am," the new father said.

"That's good," Meyers said. "You want that real secure. You want the seat to take all the force of the crash."

The hospital will offer free car seat safety checks on Aug. 20 and Oct. 15. For more information and to register, call (770) 541-1111.