By: Heather Bitzer
“When will we be able to carpool?” I wondered as my neighbor and I fired up our SUVs and followed each other to preschool registration.
Back when I was a kid, (oh my gosh…did I just say that?) we would have driven together. Then, it was Mrs. Sterrett and my mom, who on alternating Wednesdays, carted an entire neighborhood’s worth of kids to choir practice. You could come along too, if your mom said it was okay and we had enough seatbelts. After all, the police had just started to give click-it tickets!
Not that today’s moms wouldn’t be willing! We have cavernous minivans and giant SUVs purchased specifically for hauling kiddie cargo! So exactly when is it okay to just pick ’em up and drop ’em off without doing the safety seat shuffle?
I set out to get the facts on vehicle occupant safety. And thanks to Officer Daniel P. Mulligan of the Upper Providence Township Police Department, I came away with oodles of info for the blog!
Have a seat.
According to Ofc. Mulligan, who has been a nationally certified child passenger safety technician since 2004, Pennsylvania Child Seat Laws are as follows:
“From birth to the child’s 4th birthday, they must be in some type of child safety seat with a harness. State law and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) require that all children must stay rear facing until they are a minimum of 1 year of age AND 20lbs. Studies in this area show however, that keeping a child rear facing for as long as possible, up to 23 months will greatly reduce the risk of injury in low speed collisions.”
“From age 4 up to age 8, state law requires that all children be secured in a booster type seat. The purpose of a booster seat is for proper fitment of the seatbelt, which is low across the hips for the lap portion of the belt and across the center of the chest for the shoulder belt. All children should be secured in the rear of the vehicle to age 12.”
“Remember,” says Ofc. Mulligan, “some frontal airbags are deployed in excess of 200mph!”
Who needs directions?
When it comes to installation manuals, do just like you tell our kids and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! I was absolutely shocked to learn just how many carseats are installed incorrectly!
“The majority of child seats are installed incorrectly, greater than 80%,” reports Mulligan. “It would be a good idea to make an appointment with a certified child passenger safety technician to insure that your child safety seat is installed properly.”
You can search for a local technician on the National Safe Kids Coalition website at: www.safekids.org.
A little clutter never hurt anyone, right?
My name is Heather, and I have an extremely cluttered car! It’s filled to the brim with discarded sippy cups, Happy Meal toys, snow scrapers, Cd’s, and a kid size shopping cart that bangs from side to side whenever I go around a curve.
“Be sure to secure all loose items in your vehicle!” warns Ofc. Mulligan. “Anything that is not secured can end up becoming a projectile in a crash.”
He also points out that most aftermarket accessories, even those for carseats, have not been crash tested and can pose impact hazards in a collision.
Too cool for rules.
I vividly remember a cringe worthy incident from my teen years. A friend was driving me home from work on a deserted Chester County road when she abruptly swung our car into the left lane.
“Hello! We’re in England!” She announced in an overdone cockney accent.
The two of us cracked up, at her “harmless” joke and she continued to drive down the wrong side of the street. Thankfully we made it home safely.
Teen drivers. Holy yikes!
“I’m just glad my kids are little and I have some time to prepare myself for that journey,” says Ofc. Mulligan. (Amen!) But, he does have some great information to share when it comes to your driving teen.
Over 4,000 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are killed every year on America’s roadways. It’s the result of inexperience, texting while driving, showing off, and a myriad of other things that add up to heartbreak!
“Education, education, education!” Says Mulligan, “beat the dead horse about the importance of driving safely. Youtube.com is a great ‘tough love’ resource. There are literally millions of videos about crashes. Video’s that show crashes, from minor to fatal. There are video testimonials from those who have lost loved ones in crashes. Victims who will now suffer a lifetime of therapy or disability as a result of poor decisions such as texting while driving. This stuff really hits hard when your teen doesn’t seem to want to heed your warning. Some of these video’s can be disturbing for some. I recommend previewing the videos first.”
You set the tone!
“As you wrote in your last article, children learn a lot by the example you set,” says Officer Mulligan, proving that Montco dads read www.Montcomom.com too! “Having said that, apply the same principles on the road as you would at home. The first thing you should do when you get in your car is buckle up. You spend a lot of time and effort making sure your children are secured properly, why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? Your children will take notice of this and remember, your actions speak volumes!”
Officer Daniel P. Mulligan is a police officer with the Upper Providence Township Police Department and has been a nationally certified child passenger safety technician since 2004. He also has training in advanced collision investigation and reconstruction. To contact Ofc. Mulligan with any questions, or to make an appointment to have a child safety seat checked please call:
Upper Providence Twp. Police Dept.
1286 Black Rock Rd.
Oaks, PA 19456
610-933-7899 general questions
610-476-7716 to make an appointment to have your car seat checked.
Montco Mom Heather is a former pediatric nurse turned mom to two lovely little ladies.