Need a free car seat?
Not sure how to properly install one?
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program Director Mike Ezzell plan to partner with one another this week to help parents and guardians with both issues.
On Monday, they, along with law enforcement and first responders, will meet at Pullen Park near Shelter 5 in Raleigh to hand out free car seats to the first 50 visitors who need one and help all caregivers install car seats correctly and for free.
“Car seats save lives, but they have to be installed properly in order to do their jobs,” Causey said in a news release. “Our goal during Child Passenger Safety Week is to teach as many parents, grandparents and caregivers as possible the correct way to install a child passenger safety seat and secure children in a vehicle.”
If you can’t make it to Pullen Park on Monday, you can visit one of the 2,916 child passenger safety technicians who work in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Why is this important?
A joint statement from Causey and Ezzell said that vehicle wrecks are the leading cause of death for children between 1 and 13 years old.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported 608 children died in traffic crashes in 2019 and 38% of those deaths involved children who weren’t properly restrained.
And in North Carolina, Ezzell said, 30 children under the age of 12 died last year in traffic accidents.
“We can and must prevent these tragedies,” Ezzell said in a news release. “North Carolina has more child passenger safety technicians than any other state, and they are always available to help you and your family ensure proper installation.”
The news release said that child safety seats reduce the number of fatal injuries in infants by 71% and for toddlers by 54%.
They added that a child’s age, weight and height all are factors in proper safety restraint and that parents and guardians must stay informed about current regulations and suggestions.
Monday’s event also includes an award ceremony.
Wilmington firefighters Joshua Gibson and Eli Velencia will be on site to talk about how their installation of a child safety seat may have saved Harris Shultz’s life.
Harris’ grandmother, Sandra Aldridge, had visited the fire department on Jan. 23 with concerns that his car seat wasn’t properly installed in her RAV4, according to The Wilmington Star News.
They confirmed that and helped her install it properly.
Within 24 hours, Aldridge’s SUV was hit by another vehicle pulling out of a shopping center. The wreck totaled her car but Harris, who was 4 months old at the time, and Aldridge survived without serious injuries, the newspaper reported.
Aldridge, Harris and Harris’ mother, Lauren Shultz, will also be at the event to talk about the difference the program made to their lives.
Aldridge and Harris will be awarded the “Saved by the Belt” award during the event for buckling up before the wreck.
Buckle Up NC lays out North Carolina state laws and best practices for safety in vehicles on its website.
North Carolina law requires all drivers and their passengers to wear a seat belt unless riding in cars built in 1967 or before or vans, pickup trucks or SUVs built in 1971 or before. It also doesn’t apply to large buses, ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
Placing a shoulder belt behind a person’s back or arm is a violation of state law for both adults and children.
Laws for those under 16 are more strict.
A child under 8 years old or less than 80 pounds must be in a car or booster seat, and booster seats must be used with lap and shoulder belts.
A child weighing at least 40 pounds is allowed to be in a booster seat with only a lap belt if a shoulder belt is not available. Officials warn that this is not the safest option.
If a vehicle has a back seat and front passenger side airbags, children under five or less than 40 pounds must be placed in the back.
Drivers who do not secure children under 16 properly face a $25 fine, full court costs and fees and two drivers license points.
A driver will not face conviction if the child is under 8 years old and the driver can prove at trial that they have an appropriate booster seat or child safety seat for the vehicle used to transport the child.