Ending child deaths in car crashes: CDOT training course aims to reduce misused car seats

Heather Willard

Angel Giffin, Colorado State Patrol’s Child Passenger Safety Training Coordinator, and a student from the course.Photo byColorado Department of Transportation

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / March 23, 2023

(Douglas County, Colo.) CDOT hosted a four-day course to increase the number of child passenger safety technicians, seeking to reduce the 66% of improperly installed car seats and prevent children from dying.

New car seats often have several installation configurations, allowing them to be used for years as the child grows. Colorado law requires that children under a year old and under 20 pounds must be transported in a rear-facing child safety seat. After that, the seat can be forward facing (another installation configuration). After that, children should use a booster seat until they are at least 8 years old (which, you guessed it, is another configuration of the seat).

Colorado’s 2022 crash data shows that 66% of car seats are misused in the state, accounting for about 3,000 children who could be more injured in a crash than if they had been properly secured.

Additionally, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children under 13, according to the Centers for Disease Control, surpassed only in the past year by gun deaths. Last year, seven children died while unrestrained in a car, CDOT reported.

Common car seat mistakes include improperly installing the car seat, selecting a car seat that is not appropriate for the child’s height and weight, and not harnessing the child properly, said Angel Giffin, a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor for Car Seats Colorado.

Beginning the week of March 20, a 16-person class including law enforcement, fire and emergency response teams, and community groups is earning certifications to be car seat, safety technicians. The training is through Car Seats Colorado and SafeKids Worldwide.

According to SafeKids Worldwide’s National Child Passenger Safety Certification website, there are 21 certified child passenger safety technicians in Douglas County and approximately 388 in the state. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s car seat inspection site finder, there are about 17 sites in Douglas County that offer car seat inspections — many require appointments and unequipped for walk-ins.

Once certified, the 16 individuals in the class will add to a growing list of technicians who provide free and much-needed car seat safety inspections and caregiver training.

Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children under 13. Proper use of car seats significantly reduces the risk of injury and death in a crash. However, many parents and caregivers struggle with installing and using child safety seats correctly.

"Using car seats correctly — whether it’s infants in rear-facing seats or tweens using boosters — can be complicated," said Trooper Timothy Sutherland, Colorado State Patrol. "Parents are often doing their best but sometimes need a little help and education."

The four-day certification course covers:

  • How to select an appropriate child car seat, booster seat or seat belt
  • How to properly harness the child in their car seats
  • How to properly install cars seats into vehicles

"Our data shows that parents are having a lot of trouble installing seats correctly. The more technicians we can have working in our communities, the more parents we can educate. This means more kids kept out of harm’s way," said Sam Cole, CDOT Communications Manager.

"We hope we can continue to get more nurses, firefighters, cops, and anyone engaged in their community to participate.”

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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