HELENA — According to the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in children ages 0 to 13.
Nationwide, between 2013 and 2017, 3,313 children were killed.
In 2017, more than 1/3 of the child passengers killed in crashes were not properly restrained.
But the Helena Police Department and the Montana Department of Transportation are working together to bring information to Lewis and Clark County residents about proper car seat and seat belt usage.
Montana offers resources to help parents at their 41 “Permanent Inspection Stations”, where technicians demonstrate how to properly install a car seat, dependent on the make and model, as well as make sure it's fitted appropriately for your child, based on their individual height and weight.
Each state has varying height and weight requirements.
Erin Root, Occupant Protection Program Planner for the Montana Department of Transportation, told MTN, “To reduce the death and injury rate in children, in Montana, we have federal grant money that we use to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of using car seats and having children properly restrained.”
Root continued, “In my life, I am a mom of two, and so it's a very personal topic for me and just being in this position and learning so much about car seats, it's eye opening. 4 out of 5 car seats are installed incorrectly, and there's some type of misuse, and I think back to that and I wish I had taken advantage of the opportunities to have a CPS technician check out my car seats, it takes half an hour and I would have had such peace of mind. ”
Having your child properly secured is not only key to their safety, it’s also required by law. Drivers in violation will be faced with large fines.
Scott Finnicum, Traffic Enforcement Officer, for Helena Police Department, said, “Montana state law says, that if your child is under six years old, and under 60 pounds, it's a primary offense if they aren't restrained in a child safety seat.”
Helena Police Officer Andrew Barton, a School Resource Officer and car seat technician, shared one final tip Montana prepares for a drift into winter.
“The important thing to consider is how are you gonna dress your child prior to putting them into a car seat. What you don't want to do, is you don't want heavy, bulky, clothing, winter coats or anything like that, prior to putting them in.”
As a reminder, customers can trade in used car seats at the service desk in any participating Walmart store, including Helena, and receive a $30 Walmart gift card that can be used in a store or online to buy items for their baby.
From Sept. 16 through Sept. 30, Walmart is holding its first-ever car seat recycling event in celebration of National Baby Safety Month.