As northeast Ohioans experience yet another winter-driving season, safety is of the utmost importance. Drivers, especially those with small children, take every precaution to avoid accidents. But one area agency recognizes that not all drivers have the knowledge or the means to fully protect children, and it is working hard to change that.
Summit County Safe Kids Coalition, one of 280 Safe Kids programs nationally, works with local agencies to protect children from preventable, unintentional injuries. In 2002, it opened the Child Safety Seat Inspection Station at AAA Akron Auto Club to prevent the No. 1 risk: automobile-related injuries.
Of the car seats inspected at the station last year, more than 80 percent were not properly installed. This greatly concerns Lisa Pardi, coordinator for the Summit County Safe Kids Coalition, who said a recent study put Summit County at high risk for vehicle-related injuries.
"Hospitals don't educate or check on mothers and their children post-delivery," said Pardi, who also serves as injury prevention coordinator at Akron Children's Hospital, the only local hospital that does.
According to Pardi, Summit County Safe Kids fills this gap, providing inspections to all clients, regardless of income. During the appointments, inspectors perform a multi-point check of the entire child safety seat, from positioning and harnessing to the appropriateness of the seat to the child. Once the inspection is complete, inspectors discuss their findings with clients and provide them with immediate feedback.
"We're in the business of real-time problem solving," said Pardi, who points out that such immediate impact is what makes the program so successful.
A $10,000 Community Fund grant from Akron Community Foundation has helped the program serve more clients, many of whom come to the inspection center after receiving a Safe Kids safety-seat voucher from a social-service agency in the area. These agencies include Help Me Grow, Pregnancy Care, Akron Health Department and Akron Fire Department.
"Our goal is to get seats under (children) and make sure they're being used properly," she said, which the coalition also does at its dozen or so child seat check-up events throughout the community. The coalition chooses locations for the events based on data supplied by the Summit County Sheriff’s Department.
The Child Safety Seat Inspection Center is open to all residents of Summit County. For an appointment, call 330-762-0631.