Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among children, and Alaska has a higher percentage of car seat and booster seat misuse than the national average.
“The national average is about 85 percent. In Alaska, statistically, we see a misuse rate of anywhere from 88 to 94 percent.”
That’s Sara Penisten, a registered nurse and state coordinator for Safe Kids Alaska – an organization aimed at preventing childhood injury in a number of ways, including properly installed car seats and booster seats.
Penisten said Safe Kids Alaska sent three instructors to Kodiak a few years ago to train and certify people to be child passenger safety technicians. The national certification is good for two years, and allows certified technicians to be a community resource and help properly install, inspect and adjust car seats and booster seats. This weekend two instructors will return to the island to provide additional education to technicians and offer a free seat checkup event.
“The instructors as well as the technician team will be checking folks car seats and booster seats to make sure they are installed correctly and being utilized correctly in the vehicle.”
She said statistics show that more often than not, car seats and booster seats are being improperly used. This could be due to a number of reasons, but the free checkup will give parents a chance to have their seats checked, adjust them to fit their child properly and learn proper harnessing to offset those statistics. The checkups can last up to a half hour, but Penisten said they are well worth it.
For those who might not make it to Saturday’s event, Penisten said it’s actually a service offered year-round thanks to the certified technicians on the island and a partnership with Bayside Fire Station.
“Folks can call Bayside Fire Station to set up a private appointment and a technician will meet with them to go through the installation and use of their specific car seats.”
Safe Kids Alaska is a partner with Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center and works in a variety of child safety avenues including drowning prevention and bicycle helmet usage. They were a key force in a 2009 push to upgrade and further define booster seat laws in the state.
“That was a really, really lengthy difficult process. We tend to view things in Alaska as oh we’re frontier spirits and we don’t need rules and regulations but unfortunately we don’t always choose to advocate for the safest thing for our children. And sort of our tagline at Safe Kids Alaska is that we are preventing childhood injury in the last frontier. And that is our goal.”
The car seat and booster seat checkup event will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Bayside Fire Station and wrap up around 4 p.m., with the last car checks starting at 3:30 p.m.