West Point, area law enforcement host child seat safety inspection
May 21, 2009
Sliding around all over the back seat of Detective Lt. William Barbera's car was fun for his children when they were young.
They were strapped tightly in car safety seats. But Barbera's best efforts at installing the seats into the car weren't quite enough.
"I was fortunate I never had an accident," Barbera, of the Rockland County Sheriff's Department Detective Bureau, said. "Knowing what I know now, that was really dangerous."
Barbera and law enforcement from Orange, Rockland and Westchester Counties realize installing car seats correctly can be somewhat mysterious. So, they helped West Point parents master tricky car seat installation during a free car seat inspection May 14 at the Stony Lonesome Road fire station.
Fifty car seats were inspected during the event. Officers checked the seats to make sure they were in good condition and were manufactured within the last six years and hadn't been recalled. They also helped parents correctly install the seats.
If the officers found a problem with a seat, parents received a new car seat for free courtesy of New York's Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. Recalled and old car seats also were replaced for free. Some 28 seats were replaced or reinstalled, and two expectant mothers received free infant car seats.
Kelly Knoth, mother of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, received one new car seat, got help installing replacements for recalled parts of another car seat and had both correctly installed.
"Getting in and out of the car all the time, we didn't know if the seats were still OK," she said. "Now I know they are safe and in there the right way."
Installing safety seats the right way can be tricky because seats come in a variety of styles, and the car seats the safety seats are strapped to also vary in design. Sometimes, safety seats didn't fit properly on a car seat unless the officers cut a piece of a swimming pool noodle foam toy and used it to fill a gap between the car seat and the safety seat.
Correctly installed safety seats will be strapped so tightly to a car seat, they don't move, Barbera said.
Melissa Prosperie, mother of four children ranging in ages from 6 months to 10 years, had a safety seat inspection when her oldest child was a baby. She thought having all her safety seats inspected would be a good idea.
"As a parent, your primary responsibility is to keep (children) safe," she said. "It's something all parents should think about."
Prosperie drove away with a couple of new seats because the ones she brought in were old and could be dangerous.
The inspection was the third annual event for West Point, Keith Katz, director of West Point safety and occupational health, said.
"This came from our concern for the Families and children at West Point," Katz said. "It's (improper safety seat installation) a nationwide problem. Most car seats are not used correctly.
Last year, 58 out of 60 had to be swapped or reinstalled. So, we want to educate parents and help them use the seats the right way."
Military Police also were at the inspection to provide identification kits to parents. The kits contain a card to record a child's Social Security number and other information, a fingerprint card, a method to take a hair sample for DNA and other items so the kit can be given to police if a child ever gets separated from Family.
Investigator Joshua Starkel helped fingerprint some of the children who came with their parents and recommends the kits for the benefit of being prepared.
"It's always good to prepare for the worst," Starkel said. "It is better to have this and not need it than not have it in an emergency."
Children and parents also received information from Army Community Services about available programs and services.
Area law enforcement who helped with the event were given coins and certificates of appreciation by Command Sgt. Maj. Violet McNierney, garrison senior noncommissioned officer, on behalf of Garrison Commander Col. Dan Bruno.
Parents who were unable to make the inspection can schedule an appointment for a free inspection by calling the Rockland County Sheriff's Office Police Division at 638-5992.