OCHD offers free car seat checks: Statistics show more than 75 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly

Jenni Garrison with the Ozark County Health Department, a certified child passenger safety technician, offers local residents free car seat checks by appointment throughout the year. She also schedules at least one community car seat check event every year, usually in the spring. Details of the public event will be published in the Ozark County Times when confirmed. To stay certified, Garrison has to complete six correct car seat checks herself in view of a certified instructor and complete continuing education to stay informed about current guidelines. Times photo / Jessi Dreckman.

When installed correctly, car and booster seats are designed to protect our most precious cargo in the event of a collision, but alarming statistics show that three out of four car seats are not used or installed properly. The Ozark County Health Department is on a mission to help reduce the numbers of improperly installed car seats locally, helping to keep more kids safe in the event of a collision. 

“The more common issues are that seats aren’t installed correctly or they are an infant carrier past the height and weight guidelines,” Jenni Garrison of the OCHD told the Times. “Sometimes children aren’t even in a seat or are riding in the front seat before it’s safe for them.”

Gainesville fire chief Ed Doiron, who is also an emergency medical technician with Ozark County Ambulance, said improper child restraint is a very common problem that emergency responders see in Ozark County.

“We see it all the time, children who have been in a crash that were improperly restrained or unrestrained altogether,” Doiron said. “Motor vehicle crashes are the biggest contributor to death among children in our country, so it’s concerning, to say the least. We know parents love their children and want them to be safe, so we urge them to please take the time to ensure they are safe when they’re in a vehicle. These checks are such a great asset to our residents and are much needed in every community.”


Get your seat checked for free

Garrison, who is certified as a child passenger safety technician through the non-profit organization Safe Kids, offers free car seat checks at the Ozark County Health Department in Gainesville. She encourages parents who have babies or children who are at the age, size and weight to be in a child safety seat to come to the health department to have their seats checked to make sure they are properly installed. Statistics show that most seats aren’t installed properly. 

“There is no judgment if your seat isn’t installed right when you come. That’s the reason we’re here… to help. Each car seat is different. Every vehicle is different. All of those things come into play when you’re installing the seat,” Garrison said. “We want to help you make sure your children are safe when they’re riding in your vehicle. Even if you think you may have it installed properly, come in and we can double check.”

Garrison said car seat checks take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and parents should plan to bring their children with them to the appointment. 

After parents watch a short educational video, Garrison measures the height and weight of the child who will be using the seat to ensure that he or she is in the proper type of seat and the seat is properly positioned in the vehicle. 

If available, parents should bring the manual for the child safety seat and the vehicle it will be installed in. Most vehicle manuals include a child safety seat section that should be read to ensure the seat is installed correctly in that type of vehicle. 

After reviewing the seat and vehicle guidelines, Garrison will then install the car seat in the vehicle, walking the parent through each step of the process. When she is finished, she uninstalls the seat and the parent or driver then installs the seat for himself or herself as  Garrison watches, so she can ensure it is installed properly. 


Current Guidelines

These are current child restraint recommendations:

• Infants/Toddlers: Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. 

• Toddlers/preschoolers: All children 2 years old or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car safety seat should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.

• School-aged children: All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 to 12 years of age. 

Older children: When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection. All children under the age of 13 should be restrained in the rear seats of a vehicle. 

Issues with installation come in many forms, including an incorrect angle of the seat itself, incorrect positioning of the chest clip, straps that are either too high or too low for the child’s body, expired seats, children who are too large or small for the seats they are using, babies facing forward too soon, straps that are not snug enough and incorrect placement in the vehicle. 


Make an appointment

To make an appointment to have your car seat checked, call the Ozark County Health Department at 417-679-3334. Garrison can also help parents who are in need of a convertible car seat or booster seat find resources to get those items. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423