I am writing this week from the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Conference in Raleigh. This seemed like a good opportunity to talk a little bit about child passenger safety.
Child passenger safety became a concern in North Carolina in the mid-1970s. Research into automobile safety had begun nationwide, and in North Carolina, studies were revealing that less that 10 percent of children involved in traffic crashes were properly restrained in child restraint seats.
In 1978, with funding from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the UNC Highway Research Center, under the direction of Dr. Bill Hall, began to tackle the problem.
North Carolina began to combat the problem through education and outreach. A training program was developed to train public safety professionals how to properly install child restraint seats and to work to educate the public. Those trained were certified as child passenger safety technicians.
Later, CPS technicians played a large role advocating for the current laws that have been passed in North Carolina requiring the use of child restraint seats.
State law in North Carolina now requires that children who are younger than 8 years old or weigh less than 80 pounds must be properly restrained in a child restraint seat.
Today, child passenger safety technicians are trained using a national standardized curriculum.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Program, in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of Insurance, continues to support the child passenger safety efforts across North Carolina.
Currently, there are more than 2,300 CPS technicians in North Carolina and the number of children properly restrained has risen to more than 90 percent.
Currently in Watauga County, there are 20 CPS technicians. Ten of those are affiliated with Blowing Rock Fire Department and Blowing Rock Police Department.
In 2008, the Blowing Rock Fire Department became the first permanent checking station in Watauga County. The permanent checking stations serve as a location where parents and caregivers can come to get assistance installing or checking the installation of their child restraint seat.
In addition to working at the permanent checking station, Blowing Rock public safety professionals help educate parents and caregivers at workshops, car seat clinics and other community events throughout the year.
Blowing Rock Police has two officers currently scheduled to attend technician training, and we are waiting for the final approval for the police department to become the second permanent checking station in Blowing Rock.
Information about child passenger safety and best practice recommendations can be found at http://www.buckleupnc.org
and at http://www.safekids.org
Any parents, grandparents or caregivers who need help with a car seat can call the Blowing Rock Fire Department or the Blowing Rock Police Department.