Proper safety seat usage

ALPENA – A group of teen moms got a lesson in the proper way to install a car seat at an Alpena Township church Friday.

The Alpena Teen Mothers of Preschoolers got a demonstration from Alpena County Deputy Mike Lash on this important bit of car safety at Word of Life Baptist Church. Car seats can reduce car crash fatalities by 71 percent, Lash said. While that might sound like a low number, the remaining 29 percent is usually due to operator error.

“I’ve had accidents where the driver and the passenger were injured, and the child in the car seat that I installed walked away,” he said.

In Lash’s time with the department, he has installed about 1,000 car seats, he said. Of those, only two had been installed properly by parents. He was trained by Safe Kids USA, and when he started seven years ago, 80 percent of parents in the country used child seats. This despite the fact that every state has laws mandating their use.

“And that is not a small ticket,” he said. “That’s a lot bigger than $65 if you’re not buckled up.”

Child seat usage has risen to 90 percent since then, and Safe Kids USA is working to push that number to 100 percent, Lash said. Using these devices is important, as car crashes are the number-one cause of accidental injury for children.

Lash told the handful of mothers that every car seat has a label on it telling users what the height and weight ranges it can accommodate. There was also a line on the seat he used in his demonstration showing the proper angle at which the seat should be.

Car seats have “expiration dates,” Lash said. They should be thrown away after six years, or if they’ve been involved in an accident.

Children need to be in a booster seat until they’re eight years old and 4 feet 9 inches tall, Lash said, although children may need them longer. Parents will know when their kids are done with booster seats if the seat belt goes across the center of their child’s shoulder.

“I’ve actually seen children go up to age 12 and be in a booster seat,” he said.

Teen MOPS organized the demonstration as a way to teach its members responsible parenting, group Coordinator Lillian Shriner said. The group is one of two aimed at giving practical advice to the mothers of preschoolers and young children.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.