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Car Seats Save Lives in Barrow County

December 13, 2013

Holly Shedd didn’t even have time to hit the brakes when a driver ran a Walton County stop sign and slammed into her car on April 6, 2013. The crash left Shedd’s car so mangled that emergency responders arriving at the scene immediately began preparing body bags for the car’s five passengers – Shedd, her husband, two friends and Shedd’s two-year-old daughter, Lyndsee – before realizing that they were alive.

“One of the paramedics said it was a miracle that any of us lived,” Shedd said.

Lyndsee not only survived the crash, but she escaped with just a few scratches, the most minor injuries of all the car’s passengers. Emergency responders told Shedd that Lyndsee’s car seat had saved her life – a car seat the Shedds got through the Barrow County Child Passenger Safety program.

On Wednesday, Shedd told her family’s story to a crowd gathered at Holsenbeck Elementary School in Barrow County to celebrate National Child Passenger Safety Week. Barrow County child safety staff, sheriff’s officers and representatives of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) gathered to educate some of the county’s youngest residents about the importance of buckling up and using child safety seats properly.

As more than 350 students, parents and teachers checked out brochures, activity books and picked out T-shirts, a Humvee rumbled into the parking lot, the Army-fatigue paint job declaring Barrow County’s dedication to “Fighting the War on Unbuckled Children.”

It’s a war that GOHS and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) have committed to fight together. The agencies partner in counties across the state to educate parents and caregivers on properly buckling children into car seats and to distribute safe car seats to families in need, with the help of the GOHS-funded mini-grant program.

“Car seats and seat belts do save lives. We just need to use them and use them correctly,” said Zetta Jones, of DPH’s Child Occupant Safety Project, who helps coordinate the Barrow County Child Safety program. “Our goal is to make sure all parents and caregivers know how to do that.”

In Barrow County, the war on unbuckled children began in 2007, when the sheriff’s office began offering the Child Passenger Safety mini grants. Working with the Barrow County Child Safety program, the sheriff’s office trained 28 of its officers as certified safety technicians who began conducting road checkpoints and car seat check-up events throughout the county. Technicians at the checkpoints found that 94 percent of car seats were installed or used incorrectly.

“Installing seats can be very confusing,” Jones said. “That’s why it is important to have a certified child passenger technician to assist you in securing your child correctly.”

The county also offers safety classes to educate parents and provide seats to families who qualify for assistance. Since the program began six years ago, Barrow County has issued more than 700 car seats to parents and caregivers in the classes.

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith said the program has made big strides in reducing the numbers of injuries and fatalities of children in the county. In 2008, three children under the age of 8 died in motor vehicle crashes and many others had serious crash-related injuries. Since 2009, no child under age 8 has died in a crash.

“We believe this reduction is a direct result of community involvement and education,” Smith said.

Not only did one of the program’s car seats save Lyndsee Shedd’s life, but her mother said what she learned through the training has changed how she travels with her daughter every day.

“Before, if I was just running to the grocery store or something, I would just buckle the top of her seat and leave the bottom unbuckled. After taking the classes, I would never do that,” she said. “If the car seat isn’t buckled in the right way, I don’t leave the driveway.”