MOUNT CARMEL - The percentage of motorists who had improperly installed their child safety seats last week during a two-day checkpoint in Mount Carmel was slightly above the national percentage.
That's not an easy thing to accomplish considering that across the nation 97 percent of all child safety seats are installed improperly.
But Mount Carmel Police Department Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said that 100 percent of the child safety seats inspected during last week's two-day checkpoint were improperly installed. On top of that, about half of them were outdated, defective or worn out and were replaced free of charge by the MCPD.
The checkpoint was held last Wednesday and Thursday at the Mount Carmel Fire Department in recognition of national Child Passenger Safety Week.
"We as child safety seat technicians say that 97 percent of all seats nationwide aren't installed properly, and I know that the general public probably believes that figure is exaggerated," Campbell said. "But I'm here to tell you that every single child safety seat we inspected over that two-day period was incorrectly installed. Some of them were major mistakes, but the most common mistake is too much slack on the straps holding the seat down."
"A seat that is correctly installed should move no more than one inch in any direction and we had some that were wobbling all over the back seat."
Campbell said he spoke to one woman who said her belts were so loose that when she took a turn too hard the child seat completely tipped over on its side. Thankfully the infant wasn't injured.
Injuries can be avoided by ensuring that a child safety seat is installed properly. That's why the MCPD has begun offering free child safety seat inspections four days a week at the police station on Hammond Avenue.
Anyone who missed last week's safety seat checkpoints can stop by the police station Monday through Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. for an inspection, and to receive a free child seat replacement if needed.
"We have six officers who are now certified safety seat technicians, and we've adjusted our schedules so that there is at least one technician available during those hours," Campbell said. "We're not going to scold anyone for having their seat installed improperly. In fact, we expect you to have your seat installed improperly.
"That's why we've stepped up this program as much as we have. A properly installed child safety seat can prevent injury and death in the event of an accident, and out goal is to make sure that every seat in the region is put in right."
For more information about the child safety seat program call the MCPD at 357-9019.