LaGRANGE — A caravan of cops and cars will canvass Troup County this week on a mission to save the lives of young children.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will join local law enforcement agencies in participating in Child Passenger Safety Week. The campaign is dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible, every trip, every time.
The goal is to make sure all parents and caregivers are correctly using the right car seat or booster for their child’s age and size. Under Georgia law, children must remain in booster seats until they are 8 years old.
“Car crashes are still the leading cause of death for children both in Georgia and nationwide,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said. “Sadly, we’ve found that more than half, 59 percent, of all car seats are installed incorrectly. That is why we choose one Georgia county every year to visit and share lifesaving knowledge of properly buckling up your precious cargo.”
Sgt. Maurice Raines, post commander of Georgia State Patrol post 2 in LaGrange, said his troopers see numerous oversights in child safety seat installations when making routine traffic stops on area interstates and roadways.
“People will buckle the seat in, but don’t check the belt to make sure it’s in locking mode once the seat is in, or that the seat itself is not properly secure and snug once it is in the car,” he explained. “Some people discover they don’t know how to install a seat properly, and they don’t know when a seat should be facing the front or the back.”
According to GOHS, a child under the age of 13 is killed in a traffic crash every 34 seconds across the country. In 2013, 126,000 children under age 13 were injured in crashes.
State law enforcement officials said the additional problem is that children are not only improperly restrained, but unrestrained completely — no car seats, no booster seats and no seat belts when riding in vehicles.
Folks with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will be stopping at elementary schools on Thursday and Friday around Troup County to talk to students about car seat safety.
“It’s an opportunity to talk to them and educate them about safety in an automobile,” Raines explained.
During the evening hours, they will be coordinating with local law enforcement agencies like LaGrange Police Department, GSP and the Troup County Sheriff’s Office to conduct traffic safety checkpoints on roadways around the county.
The campaign will culminate with an event Saturday at Walmart on New Franklin Road, where law enforcement officers will be on hand to help install child safety seats or check and make changes to ones already in place inside vehicles.
“It’s okay if you’re not sure if your child’s car seat is installed correctly. That’s what we’re here for,” Blackwood said. “We have a comprehensive, county-by-county list on our website of certified fitting stations. Visit the fitting station near you and make sure your child is the safest they can be while riding.”
Raines added: “We welcome folks to come out and be properly educated on installing child safety seats.”
There will also be food and activities on hand for the whole family, plus the GSP helicopter will be on display for folks to take a look inside and take pictures.
For a list of fitting stations in the area, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org/campaigns/child-safety-seat-fitting-locations.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.