Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Car seat safety

I'm a fanatic when it comes to child safety. And even worse when it comes to car seat safety. I just can't see any reason to have a young child, 3 years old and 30 pounds in a booster seat, especially when there are so many inexpensive choices available and the research is so clear. It has even been suggested that adults retrofit their cars so they can have a 5-point seatbelt, just like the race car drivers. Even airplane pilots use a 5-point seatbelt.

So when I see a child NOT in a seat it drives me absolutely insane. It child-abuse, plain and simple. An adult is making a choice of convenience that could kill a child.

About 4 or 5 months ago we were getting gas in Pasadena when I saw a family of three pull up to the pump. As the father pumped gas I got a good view of the mother and child, about 2 or 3, sitting in the back seat without a car seat or booster. I was beyond angry. I quickly jotted down the license plate and car make before we left the station. However, before I got to make the phone call we found a police cruiser in the next parking lot. We pulled up next to him and told him what we saw. I was very happy when he drove right over to that family to confront them.

And about a month ago it happened again. This time we were at the airport and again I watched a family of three leave baggage claim in a car meant for five people. The problem was that the driver of the car had brought her two sons along. So that meant 6 people were going to be in a car designed for five. California has very explicit seatbelt laws and you can actually be pulled over solely for a seatbelt violation.

I watched the mother and father debate over what to do with their daughter. They had a backless booster for her (which is a lesser choice, but appropriate for the child's age and weight according to the law), but no where to put it. At one point they were going to buckle in the daughter and let the father sit without a seatbelt, but apparently the mother was not happy with this choice. I'm not sure why as a 6 foot tall man would have a better chance in a crash than a tiny little girl.

I finally confronted the man and asked him if he knew there were strict car seat laws in California. He said that he knew them. I asked him where he was going, hoping it was just to the rental car area. Nope, he would be driving for 20 minutes, on the freeway. So I watched them drive away, praying for the little girls safety.

Then I wrote down the make and model of the car and the license plate. I called 9-1-1 who instructed me to call LAPD. The dispatcher was very appreciative of the information and told me she would be putting out a bulletin.

I genuinely feel bad for making these phone calls. It could really ruin someone's day getting pulled over and being harassed by the police. But a funeral or extended hospital stay can ruin someone's day too. My hope is that once the police remind the parents of the law that they will start protecting their children, just as the law requires.

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