The case for car seats

Mother says her two children were saved because of their car seats

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003

Blair Ramsdell, her boyfriend and their children had just entered the merge lane at Egan Drive's Vanderbilt Drive intersection Dec. 4 when their car was rear-ended and pushed into traffic.

"We got T-boned and swung around again, hit in a head-on collision and back into the guard rail," she said. "It was awful."

The car was hit in the middle of one side, or T-boned, by a pickup truck in the four-car accident, she said.

"I remember when we were there, I looked up in my mirror and I just seen headlights flying into the back of us," she said.

The family was taken to the hospital after the accident and their 1997 Plymouth Neon was totaled.

Ramsdell's neck went numb and she couldn't move her knee, but Tristan, now 19 months, and Garrett, now 3 months, weren't injured. The children, who were in back seat, were saved because of their car seats, she said.

"There was so much impact on the side of my vehicle that I'm surprised nothing happened to him," she said, referring to Garrett, the baby. "Good thing he was strapped in, both of them."

The incident has made Ramsdell a believer in car seats. She participated in a program last year offered at the Juneau Public Health Center that provides car seats to low-income families and conducts free checks to make sure they are installed correctly. After the accident, she replaced the damaged seats.

Keeping children safe

Type of safety seats and belts for different ages:

• Rear-facing infant seats: Birth to at least 1 year and at least 20 pounds.

• Forward-facing toddler seats: Toddlers from age 1 to about age 4, 20 to 40 pounds.

• Booster seats: Children from 40 pounds, about age 4 to 8, unless 4 foot 9 inches tall.

• Children age 8 and older or taller than 4 foot 9 inches should wear a safety belt.

• All children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For more information about child passenger safety, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

"They save your babies' lives," Ramsdell said. "I don't even know how they survived that."

Child Passenger Safety Week is Feb. 9-15 this year, and stories such as Ramsdell's illustrate the importance of car seats and booster seats, said Colleen McNulty, a child-passenger -seat instructor and nurse at Juneau Public Health.

About 90 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly in Juneau and 98 percent of children who should be using booster seats aren't, McNulty said.

The statistics are based on data gathered from car seat checkups in Juneau over the last year, she said.

Children from about age 4 and 40 pounds to at least age 8 should use booster seats to avoid serious injuries in an accident, according to the Alaska Highway Safety Office. The trouble is that seatbelts are made for adults 4 feet 9 inches or taller, McNulty said.

"Children, when they use a lap and shoulder belt only, tend to slump in their seats," she said. "So when they slump down, the lap portion rides up across the soft abdomen and causes internal injuries in a crash."

The Juneau Public Health Center has a limited number of car seats and booster seats for families who can't afford them, McNulty said. And people are welcome to call the center at 465-3353 at anytime to make an appointment for a free car-seat checkup, she said.

"We check to make sure the car seat hasn't been recalled, it's been installed correctly and that their child actually fits into the car seat," she said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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