Iowa City residents learn safety seat fitting techniques at stations


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Car seats are supposed to be safe.

But according to government officials, they are only safe if they are properly installed.

“I shudder to think what would happen if I got into some sort of an accident, and they weren’t properly in their seats,” said Kristin Schneider, a local mother of two, after having certified technicians review her two car seats.

For the first time, Iowa City maintains a permanent safety seat fitting station. The station, located at the Iowa City Fire Department Station No. 4, will hold regular events allowing parents to drive in and make sure their children’s car seats are installed properly.

“What our goal here at Station 4 is to turn this into a routine safety-seat check station,” said Greg Tinnes, a co-coordinator for Safe Kids Johnson County.

Previously, technicians traveled around to different events to educate adults.

“We go around,” said Iowa City police Officer Allan Mebus, a child-passenger safety-seat instructor. “But we don’t have to go around [anymore]. We have one place that everyone can come to at different times of the year.”

Tuesday evening marked the end of a four-day training session and the addition of 12 newly certified child-passenger-safety technicians to the current 29 in the Johnson County area. 

The Fire Department collaborated with Mercy Hospital and Safe Kids, a national organization, to bring education about children’s car seats to the area.

“If we can get car seats installed correctly, or just make sure car seats are installed correctly, it just helps prevent injuries for kids,” Tinnes said.

As well as education, officials wanted to reassure parents.

“We want to empower them with the knowledge and the confidence that they are doing the right thing,” Mebus said.

Schneider appreciated the double-sided approach.

“It confirmed that my husband did install it right in the first place,” she said. “But it taught me how to install it, because I had just let him do it, and I had no clue. It was both educational, and it double-checked the safety.”

Officials see the most problems in misuse of child restraints.

“We know our families utilize child-passenger safety seats,” said Katrina Altenhofen, Iowa’s director for Emergency Medical Service for Children. “The sad part is that only about 2 percent actually use them in the appropriate way.”

Mebus also believes there is a problem in parents taking children out of child-safety seats too early.

“We are putting small children into a vehicle-safety system that was designed for the fifth-percentile adult, which is 4-foot-9 and 80 pounds,” he said. “That’s where a lot of our injuries here are happening.”

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