HARRISBURG, Pa. — Five minutes is all it takes to save your child's life.
That's about how long it takes for you, or a certified child car seat technician, to install a car seat in the back of your vehicle. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions put in place, a number of technicians stopped doing in-person checks in favor of virtual installations. As the weather gets nicer though, and COVID-related regulations start to loosen, certified techs like pediatric trauma specialists Emmy Sasala and Shannon Depatto of Penn State Children's Hospital in Derry Township are back doing in-person checks.
"On a national average, four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly," Depatto says. "That's a huge number."
PennDOT provides funding for nearly 200 fitting stations, where a technician will check that your seat is properly installed. All the information on technicians and fitting stations can be found at the PA Kids Travel Safe website.
According to PennDOT, Pennsylvania law states that children up to the age of 4 must be properly restrained in an approved child car seat. All children must be rear-facing until the age of 2. Children ages 4 to 8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat.
DePatto urges parents to keep children in seats as long as possible, even if they are able to go past their minimum age requirement.
"There are so many times, especially older kids in a booster seat, they might come out too soon," she says. "Use the maxiumum weight and height used by the manufacturer to keep them in the seat longer, beause just those extra five minutes to have them restrained properly will save their life."
For more information on Pennsylvania's child car seat laws, visit PennDOT's website.
The State Police Bureau of Patrol also offers the following tips:
• Read and follow the car seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions;
• Use the car’s seat belt to anchor the seat to the car unless you are using a child safety seat with the LATCH system;
• Fill out and return the registration card for your seat so you'll know if it is recalled because of a problem;
• Make sure the seat’s harness fits snugly; and
• Use a tether strap if the seat requires it.
For more information on car seat safety and to get a list of state police car seat safety inspection locations and dates, click on the "Public Safety" link at http://www.psp.pa.gov.
To view a list of PennDOT-supported car seat checks and for more child passenger safety resources, visit PennDOT.gov/safety click on “Traffic Safety and Driver Topics” and then “Child Passenger Safety.”
Penn State Children's Hospital and GIANT Food Stores are teaming up to do seat checks. Anyone can sign up for an appointment to have their car seat(s) checked at cmnhershey.org/GIANT. “Drive-by” or unscheduled appointments are welcomed, but appointments are strongly encouraged.
Car Seat Safety Program Event Dates, times and locations:
- Wed., 3/24 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 3777 Peters Mountain Rd., Halifax, PA 17032
- Sat., 3/27 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - GIANT, 3777 Peters Mountain Rd., Halifax, PA 17032
- Wed., 4/7 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 6301 Grayson Rd., Harrisburg, PA 17111
- Sat., 4/10 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - GIANT, 6301 Grayson Rd., Harrisburg, PA 17111
- Wed., 4/21 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 835 Bowman St. Lebanon, PA 17046
- Sat., 4/24 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – GIANT, 835 Bowman St. Lebanon, PA 17046
- Wed., 4/28 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 4655 Perkiomen Ave. Reading, PA 19606
- Sat., 5/1 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – GIANT, 4655 Perkiomen Ave. Reading, PA 19606
- Wed., 5/5 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 2555 S. Spring Garden St. Carlisle, PA 17013
- Sat., 5/8 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – GIANT, 2555 S. Spring Garden St. Carlisle, PA 17013
- Wed., 5/12 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - GIANT, 1605 Lititz Pk. Lancaster, PA 17543
- Sat., 5/15 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - GIANT, 1605 Lititz Pk. Lancaster, PA 17543
- Wed., 6/2 – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – GIANT, 277 Hershey Rd. Hummelstown, PA 17036
- Sat., 6/5 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - GIANT, 277 Hershey Rd. Hummelstown, PA 17036