Tragic Deaths Of Two Children Highlight Importance Of Proper Installation Of Child Safety Seats
Last week, two very young children were tragically killed in separate rollover accidents on Interstate 90 near Clinton where they were both ejected from their vehicles and pronounced dead at the scene.
Kira Huck is co-chair of the Safe Kids Missoula Coalition. She said on Monday, that her organization teams up with the Missoula Rural Fire Department for clinics where parents can learn how to safely fasten a child safety seat inside a vehicle.
"Car seat safety is one of our primary initiatives," Huck said. "It is the leading cause of unintentional deaths of children in the United States and here in Montana. A correctly used car seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent. That's why we encourage parents to make sure they're properly using and installing their car seats."
Many parents don't realize their child's car safety seat might be expired.
"I don't think people know that car seats can expire," Huck said. "The more a car seat is exposed to heat and cold, the plastic can be degraded and it's not as safe. There should be a label on the seat with information. We also want to make sure that the seat is appropriate for the child's age, weight and height. Children under 13 should ride in the back. Just think of them as the VIP that always sits in the back. Also, make sure the safety seat is facing the right direction. We encourage the parent to keep the child in a rear-facing seat at least till age two, and then move them to a forward facing seat."
Huck said there are special events coming up in September to help parents and grandparents properly install and buckle in a child safety seat.
"Missoula Rural Fire does car seat safety checks on the second Saturday of each month," she said. "They're free but they do require an appointment. This month, however, they're moving it to September 24th which is National Seat Check Saturday. They'll be running from 10 am till 2 pm and parents can call 549-6172 to make an appointment. There's also a second car seat check at Caras Park from 9 am till noon on the 24th. Both these events will give the parent the chance to work with a qualified car seat technician that will walk them through the process of installing that car seat correctly and making sure it's being used correctly."
Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh said even though an adult failing to use a seat belt is a secondary violation, failure to have children properly buckled in becomes a primary violation and will result in a misdemeanor citation.
Last Thursday, three year-old Paityn Marie Zuleger, and the very next day on Friday, three month-old Caia Cleary were both killed in separate rollover crashes on I-90 near Clinton. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, in Thursday's crash, no one in the vehicle was restrained, while in Friday's incident, the baby was in a car seat, but it was ejected during the crash.