FRANKLIN COUNTY – “The goal is to send people away safer than when they showed up,” Brad Timberlake said.
Timberlake is the director at Franklin County Regional Communications Center. He and Deputy Austin Couture from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department recently became certified as National Child Passenger Safety Technicians, an intensive four-day program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Safe Kids Worldwide, and other national partners. This certification allows them to offer car seat safety sessions to the public in the area, and they are starting that program.
Couture started the program as his community project at the sheriff’s department. Timberlake heard about the project and asked to become involved, and the two completed their four-day training at the Brunswick Fire Department in August.
Child Passenger Safety Technicians can play an important role in improving child safety in vehicles by offering education on correct car seat installation, appropriate sizing and transition stages for the child, and best practices for traveling with a child.
Timberlake shared some key statistics from their training this summer. On average, three children are killed and 487 are injured every day in the United States in traffic crashes. Car seats decrease the risk of a fatal injury by 71% in infants and 54% in toddlers, and booster seats reduce the risk of non-fatal injuries by 45% among children ages 4 to 8 when compared to the use of a seatbelt alone. Timberlake added that a child’s safety in the vehicle decreases with each transition away from a rear-facing infant seat, so it is important to maximize the time a child can safely stay at each level.
A consultation with Couture or Timberlake is likely around 30 to 45 minutes long and includes making sure that the car seat is safe and has a clean history, exploring the installation components for different vehicles, finding the safest position in the vehicle, and demonstrating the correct placement for the car seat harness and buckles. In addition, they will check the vehicle and car seat for any recalls, using the NHTSA database. If a car seat has an active recall, they can provide information on how to address the recall with the manufacturer.
Timberlake and Couture will also offer education on rear-facing versus front-facing seats and the appropriate age, size, and development stages for each transition between seats; explain the laws around children in motor vehicles; and share best practices to improve child safety.
Couture said that they are not doing a one-time installation of a car seat, they are offering education for the participants to be able to install the seat independently. Couture and Timberlake will show all the options for installing the car seat and then have the participant install the seat.
Timberlake said that the service is available to parents, grandparents, and anyone else who would be transporting a child. As an example, while parents may feel more comfortable installing and using a car seat, grandparents may not be as familiar with today’s practices. In addition, they can offer this service for expectant parents who want to set themselves up for success.
Timberlake and Couture are currently taking appointments for these consultations, either at County Way in Farmington where the Sheriff’s Office and Franklin RCC are located, or at a residence if that is a better option for the participants. Generally, the best time for appointments is during the regular office hours, Monday through Friday, but accommodations can be made if necessary. Due to the nature of emergency services, appointments must be made in advance.
Couture added that they are not shaming anyone for any issues that come up during the session. The safety of the child is the top priority of this program. Car seats are increasingly complicated with hundreds of different models for all stages of a child’s development, and different instructions and best practices for each. Recommended installation techniques have changed as recently as the last couple years. Car seat covers may be made with fire-retardant materials that can lose efficiency when washed. Car seats have expiration dates due to the degradation of the plastic materials and wear-and-tear on the harnesses and buckles. Some seats are combination units that adapt from a rear-facing seat up to a booster seat, which can provide additional challenges and learning curves. Couture said that he learned new information when he took the course that he didn’t know when his child was born, and he wants to share that information with members of the community to help improve safety.
“The goal of this program is to send people away safer than when they showed up,” Timberlake reiterated.
In the future, Timberlake and Couture hope to expand the program and the number of technicians who can provide this service for the community, and to offer services in collaboration with local schools, daycares, and healthcare providers.
To set up an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-860-4180.