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HEALTH WATCH: Car Seat Safety Check

Car accidents are the number one killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States.

A car seat or booster seat can help protect them but only if it's installed correctly.

There is a free Health Watch Safety Check going on at Cordova Mall.

What are some of the top mistakes most parents make when it comes to car seats.

Pensacola Fire Marshal David Allen challenged his  firefighters.
   
"Pick something they could make their own and pick a project they felt like would benefit the community," Allen said.

For Gary Creel, it was instant, the veteran firefighter says he was tired of pulling hurt kids out of cars who weren't buckled properly, or at all...¤W6 24 ]] C2.5 G 0 [[
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"So many time, we've seen accidents involving children and I know something had to be done," said Creel.

That was three years ago.

Since then, Creel has gotten state grants to fund the training of more than fifty firefighters to become certified seat technicians.The most of any other Florida agency.

"Statistically, over 90 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly."

Creel's inspected hundreds of car seats.

"The most common mistake I see is the retaining clip being too low."

Creel says retaining clips should be at armpit level. He says do the shoulder strap "pinch test" often. If you can pinch and pull the top, it's too loose.

Vehicles made after 2002 have the "latch" system, built in components for seat straps.

Creel says most parents use the latch system and seat belts too.

"Both systems are equally effective if used correctly, however they should not be used together."

That surprised nurse Reagan Eastwood.

"I was wondering, well that's double the protection so why would that be wrong, that's just more safety," Eastwood said.

Creel says it's double the impact.

The latch system kicks in and the seat belt, two chances for head and abdomen injuries.

Creel certifies Sacred Heart's pediatric nurses in car seat safety.

Creel says parents should never buy a used seat. It may have been in a wreck.

Creel says car seats should be thrown out after an accident.

Yard sale seats may be too old. Plastic breaks down, straps weaken and even rot.

"A lot of times parents don't know that car seats have expiration dates, so they may purchase a car seat that is expired."

Creel says most seats expire after six years. The date is stamped on the back.

If you can't make today's car seat inspection at Cordova Mall, call the Pensacola Fire Department at 436-5200 for an appointment.

Firefighters inspect Tuesdays through Thursdays, 1-4 p.m.