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Child safety seat

Valley law enforcement making it a priority

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Child safety seat

Turlock Police Officer Mike Simbalenko explains how to properly fit car seat safety straps around a small child in a car seat during a free installation appointment at the police department.

JONATHAN MCCORKELL/209 Health & Wellness/

POSTED December 19, 2012 5:35 p.m.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the leading cause of death for children up to age 10 is accidental death — which includes death from improperly secured or dysfunctional child safety seats.

In the last decade child automotive safety has become an emerging priority across the nation, and Turlock is no different.  The chief tool for implementation of child safety seat laws for the Turlock Police Department is education, in which the department is well-versed. TPD has two traffic safety officers and one community service officer who are certified by the state to properly install child car seats — and there is much more to it than you think.

Turlock Police Officer Mike Simbalenko said the training for certification consists of a week-long course in which officers learn about the laws regarding car seats, types of car seats, variable securing strategies and numerous installation scenarios.

Proper installation starts with purchasing a suitable child car seat, Simbalenko said. For instance, car seats have expiration dates.  During a recent public safety fair officers had to destroy more than a dozen car seats due to expiration, recall or structural failure.

“It is always important to register a car seat when you purchase one so the manufacturer can notify you if a recall is issued,” he said.

The primary strategy for TPD educational outreach is teaching parents how to securely attach the child safety seat to a car. The department installs anywhere from eight to 25 car seats a week — something Simbalenko said is vital to getting the message out to the public. In most cases minor mistakes are made by parents or caregivers.

“The seat should not move more than an inch to the left or right where it is placed and it should be level to the manufacturers guide (depending on the child’s age),” said Simbalenko.

Since the early 2000s most cars include a two or three point anchor system for car seats. In most cases the anchor system is a better way to secure a seat than just a seat belt alone.

“Whenever we have installation appointments it is all about education, however, out in the road when I pull drivers over it is about a 50 percent chance of getting a ticket,” explained Simbalenko.

Everyone in a car must be properly buckled, for each child under 16 who is not properly secured, drivers can be fined more than $475 and get a point on their driving records.

Be aware of the law. A new California child safety seat law went into effect on Jan. 1. Under the new law: 1.) Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat; 2.) Children under the age of 8 who are 4 feet, 9 inches or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat; and  3.) Children who are 8 years and over shall be properly secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system or safety belt.

For free car seat installation from certified TPD officers call 668-5550 to make an appointment. California Highway Patrol officers also offer free car seat installation lessons. The Modesto CHP office can be reached at 545-7440.

Tips from Officer Mike Simbalenko

• Car seats and booster seats are required until 8 years old.

• Rear facing car seats are required until 1 years old AND 20 lbs.

• Most car seats last at most 5 to 6 years.

• Car seats should not move more than one inch left or right from anchor point.

• Be sure to register your car seat for recall information

• Never buy a used car seat from an unknown source.

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