Local law enforcement agencies and PennDOT are encouraging motorists to participate in free child passenger safety seats checkups this week as agencies mark National Child Passenger Safety Week.
On Thursday, in a joint effort between the City of Warren Police, Conewango Township Police, Northwest Savings Bank and AAA, local law enforcement will hold a car seat inspection clinic at the NWSB office at the Warren Commons. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Warren City Police Sgt. Brandon Deppen said that turnout was "very good" at a similar event held during the same week last year.
"We encourage anyone to stop by who has a seat of any size, from infant care to the booster," Deppen said.
The event is worthwhile because, as Deppen noted, out of the 35 seats they checked last year "there's definitely some that has some issues."
"The most common problem we see is the seat either too loose in the seat belt or the belts in the seat" are too loose. "A lot of that can be easily rectified," Deppen added. "It's a maintenance issue...just need to check every so often because they will do that."
There are several law enforcement agencies that have staff certified to inspect safety seats.
Other than the city police, Chief Jason Peters and Officer Charlie Anderson of Conewango Township Police are also certified. Also, the Warren County Sheriff's Office, Warren-based Pennsylvania State Police and Warren General Hospital have staff who have been properly trained.
"We conduct regular safety seat checks at least once a month," Warren-based state police Community Service Officer Jen Bovee said. "At these stops, we check for any equipment violations along with making sure motorists have the proper registration card/insurance card and drivers license on them. We also look to make sure drivers and all passengers are properly wearing a safety seat belt. Any and all violations are cited or warned at the officer's discretion."
To those who want their child's seat checked but can't make it to the event on Thursday, Deppen said, "They can call us at any time to set up an appointment." The service is free of charge.
A release from PennDOT indicated that as few as one in four child safety seats are installed correctly.
"Ensuring the safety of our most precious cargo must be our first priority every time we get behind the wheel," said State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.
Each of the department's troops will conduct at least one safety seat check during the week, Noonan said. The seat checks are designed to teach parents the proper installation and use of child safety seats.
"We know that child passenger safety seats save lives, but only when they are installed and used properly," Noonan said. "Using these seats properly is an absolute must for everyone traveling with children."
Pennsylvania law requires that children under the age of four ride in a federally-approved car seat that is appropriate for the child's age, height and weight, the release said. "Children between the ages of four and eight must use a booster seat if they are no longer in a car seat.
The state's seat-belt law mandates that children ages eight to 17 must use a seat belt, and violating this law is a primary offense. It is a secondary offense for drivers and front-seat passengers age 18 and older to travel unbuckled.