Car Seat Safety: Are You Keeping Your Kids Safe

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Everyday Children are put into danger by not being strapped into car seats.  Children are legally required in the state of Arkansas to be secured in child safety seats.  In fact a child has to be secured in a child safety seat until the age of 6 or until they reach 60 pounds.  But many parents don't heed this warning and think that their child won't be harmed.

Region 8 News spent several hours out in traffic watching to see if parents had their children in the car seats, and we found that there were several that did not.  We found one woman who was in the backseat of a vehicle holding a baby on her lap.  In another car in addition to a little boy not being buckled in, he was leaning forward into the front of the car.  All of these incidents are in violation of the law.

None of this is surprising for Jonesboro Police Officer Jeff Vernon.

"We've seen everything from people holding babies and driving down the road to kids wrestling in the back seat to kids hanging out on the back dash of cars," said Vernon.

But most parents are like Kayla Sullins.

"I worry.  I still put him in and shake the car seat to make sure it's not moving too much and to make sure he's not going to fly out or anything.  We always make sure he's buckled in safely and nobody's hit it and unbuckled it on accident," said Sullins.

Officer Vernon said just because your kids are in a car seat it doesn't mean they're safe.  That's because there are several different kinds of seats all depending on how old your children are.

"Parents will install it properly with a seatbelt and then they'll say, 'It's kind of loose,' and they'll actually come in and put another belt on," said Vernon.

He said you should never use both the seatbelts in your car and the extra belt that comes with the car seat.

"In the event of a collision it doesn't have any give so the infant takes most of the brunt of the impact and that can cause severe damage to the child," said Vernon.

The reason you need a little wiggle room in the car seat is because when you have a wreck the car seat is made to go back against the seat at the point of collision and cocoon the baby.  The safest place to put the car seat is in the middle of the back seat, never in the front seat of the car.

"The most common excuse is that they couldn't afford a child seat.  Another one is they have a hard time keeping their child restrained they won't stay in the seatbelt or they wont stay in the child restraint.  We have stopped people with car seats and the kids not even in the seat," said Vernon.

That's alarming for parents like Sullins.

"It scares me for the child because if they have a wreck it could be the end of that child's life," said Sullins.

Something to put into perspective, a ticket for not buckling up your children is over $100.  The price of a new car seat usually runs between $80 and $100 and it can save your child's life.  If you want to make sure your child and their seat is buckled up correctly,

On Saturday morning in the parking lot behind Target at The Mall at Turtle Creek you can get your car seat checked by a police officer.  If you don't have a car seat you can be provided one free of charge.

Money that the state of Arkansas gets for the tickets written to violators goes to the fund to pay for the safety seats.