Families put an emphasis on safety

WINTERSVILLE – Jonathan Logan wanted to be sure 18-month-old Zayden Waugh’s car seat was safe and secure any time the family was out on the road.

Turns out he was neither.

“I kind of figured it was old, that’s why we came,” said Logan, the boy’s father and a Steubenville resident. “But I didn’t have it in securely, and I had a lot of questions. I didn’t know how to go about getting it in right. He (Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Tim Zook) was real good about it.”

A number of area families took advantage of Saturday’s annual child safety seat inspection at TEAM Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac on Canton Road. The free event, organized by Vandine Insurance with the Jefferson County Health Department and OHP, was designed to keep young children safe on the nation’s highways, with certified inspectors examining every car seat brought in to make sure it met current safety standards and that it was properly installed. They also were available to answer any questions the adults might have.

Seats that didn’t pass muster were discarded.

Almost three quarters of the way through the four-hour event, Annette Stewart, Ohio Buckles Buckeyes coordinator for the health department, pointed to a stack of old car seats on the floor of the TEAM dealership’s garage and said 18 families had left with brand new models. Three more families were still waiting in line with an hour still to go.

“Some of them came in with no car seat,” Stewart said. “Way back in the day it wasn’t the law, but the law now (requires) car seats and booster seats.”

Zook said children aged 4 and under need to be strapped into car seats. Children over the age of 4 need a booster seat until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.

“I’ve seen where children … probably wouldn’t have been injured if they’d been in booster seats,” he said.

Organizer Chuck Vandine said they secured a $1,000 grant from State Farm. He also donated funding for the event.

“Over the last six years I would say we’ve given out well over 200 car seats,” Vandine said. “But it’s not so much the ones we passed out – what’s amazing are the ones that came in with them improperly installed.”

A properly installed car seat is critical to child safety, he said.

“Three or four years ago I had (a woman) come in and ask us about it, and within two hours of leaving the office she was in an accident,” he said. The woman’s child was strapped into an improperly installed car seat. Rather than protect him from injury, he said a tethering strap struck the child in the face , requiring 18 stitches.

“We’ve got to keep the program alive,” Vandine said. “It could have (spared) that child the trauma.”