COVINGTON, Ga. - When new parents leave the Piedmont Newton Hospital Women’s Services Department, staff ensures that babies are safe and secure in a properly installed car seat before they drive away, but the help does not stop there. Parents, family, and caregivers are encouraged to attend a free car seat safety class taught at Piedmont Newton to learn car seat safety, the Georgia Child Passenger Safety Law, how to install the car seat in the vehicle, and how to adjust the harnesses appropriately.
“Reports show that in the United States, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death for children,” Missy Braden, First Steps coordinator and car seat tech at Piedmont Newton, said. “We also know that the risk of injury in a car crash is reduced by as much as 82 percent when car seats are used correctly.”
Braden works with families that have given birth at Piedmont Newton, as well as families in the community.
In August, Braden met new mom, Bailee Branch and her daughter Ivie. Four-month-old Ivie was still using a rear-facing only car seat, also recognized as an infant carrier that detaches from the base, but Branch also had a convertible car seat for use when Ivie got bigger. However, she was unfamiliar with how to operate and install the new seat.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 59 percent of car seats and 20 percent of booster seats are used incorrectly,” Braden said. “Bailee knew that car seats can be confusing and wanted to make sure she learned how to use the car seat correctly to keep Ivie safe.”
Braden taught Branch how to use the new seat, but also checked the use of the existing car seat. By adjusting the harness straps and tightening the base, which was not installed correctly, they were able to make Ivie safer during car trips. The new convertible car seat was placed in Branch’s trunk, which is recommended so that items do not become projectiles in the event of a crash.
In October, Branch returned for a refresher course on how to properly install and use the convertible car seat, which had been in her trunk since the class in August. It was then Braden learned that upon leaving the car seat class in August, Branch had been rear-ended by another driver.
“While both Bailee and Ivie were okay, if they had not just attended a car seat training class, and the safety adjustments had not been made to Ivie’s car seat, the outcome may have been different,” Braden said.
Braden also contacted the Child Passenger Safety Technicians at the Georgia Department of Public Health to ask if Branch needed to obtain a new convertible car seat since the one she had been in the trunk during the accident.
“Although car seats may have no obvious damage from an accident, they can have hidden stress fractures,” Braden said. “This means the car seat will be less able to withstand the force of another crash.”
Using a grant through the Georgia Department of Public Health called the Teddy Bear Sticker program, Braden was able to assist Branch in obtaining a new convertible seat for baby Ivie.
“I love knowing that part of my job with Piedmont Newton is to extend our care into the community through the car seat program,” Braden said. “Keeping a baby or child safe is a win for everyone involved.”
Child safety seat initiatives through the Georgia Department of Public health exist in 154 of Georgia’s 159 counties through agencies such as health departments, hospitals, law enforcement agencies and fire departments.
For more information on child safety seat initiatives, please visit dph.georgia.gov. For information on car seat classes at Piedmont Newton Hospital, please call 770-385-4396.