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Are children at risk in your car?
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Where to get a car seat professionally checked

Newton Medical Center
Missy Braden

Newton County Sheriff’s Department
Patrick Gilbert

UGA Extension Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute
Kim Crawford


At least 7 in 10 children are in improperly installed car seats, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some car seat professionals put the number closer to 9 in 10.

You might think that an improperly installed seat or just a seatbelt is better than none at all, but in many cases it might actually cause more damage to the child when they aren’t properly restrained.

While 4-H generally works with children 9-and-over and safety seat laws in Georgia only pertain to children under-8, the fact is that many children up to age 12 actually need booster seats depending on size.

Every child, vehicle and seat is different, so a child may be able to safely sit in one vehicle but not another.

One of the biggest warning signs I notice is shoulder straps tucked behind a child. If both the lap and shoulder belts are not worn properly, it can actually cause even more injuries in case of an accident.

The five-point test to see if your child is ready to sit in a seat belt is to see if the child can (1) sit with his back against the seat with (2) knees bent at the edge of the seat while (3) the lap belt sits low on the tops of the thighs and (4) the shoulder belt rests between the shoulder and neck. The child should also (5) be able to sit still during the entire trip—laying down or twisting around will cause an improper fit.

If all of these criteria are not met, the child probably still needs a booster seat regardless of age.

Other factors that affect car seats include expiration dates, if the straps have been washed, and aftermarket accessories.

So how do you know if your seat is properly installed and fits your child?

After calling around for certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians to check of my new car seat, I realize that very few of you have likely ever had your seat checked because there simply are not many certified technicians in our county.

While Newton Medical nurses and Covington firemen both report that they will perform a courtesy check, they do stress that they are not certified technicians.

Thankfully, Missy Braden at Newton Medical Center just completed her Child Passenger Safety Technician training last week.

Initial certification requires 28 hours of training over 3.5 days, with recertification credit due every two years.

Braden is available for seat check appointments at 770-385-4396. An appointment will take 20-30 minutes, and you should have your child with you unless you’re installing a newborn’s car seat.

She will also volunteer at community events to check car seats, so be sure to give her a call if you’re hosting an event where parents could take advantage of this service.

Another option is the Newton County Sheriff’s Department, where a few officers are certified and will make an appointment with you to check a seat. You can contact Patrick Gilbert at 678-625-1542.

Third is the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute with University of Georgia Extension, located at 1070 Culpepper Drive, S.W., in Conyers. Make an appointment with Kim Crawford at 678-413-4281 between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekdays.

This agency also conducts the Child Passenger Safety Technician trainings, so call if you are interested in learning more about this role.

The last local option is to be pulled over by a state patrolman — perhaps not the best way to check your child seats!

All Georgia State Patrol officers are certified technicians, but it may be more difficult to make an appointment with an officer. The closest office is in Monroe and may be reached at 770-464-1800.

Child safety is the responsibility of every person transporting a child.

It doesn’t matter if “I’m not going that far” or “I don’t drive him very often,” all it takes is one accident.

There are many risks I won’t be able to manage in my child’s life, but this is one I can do something about by contacting a professionally trained technician.

You never know when it will make all the difference.

Terri Kimble Fullerton is a Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at