Originally created 02/18/99

Proper child seat use stressed



AIKEN -- Toddlers at the Family Affair Day Care watched Wednesday morning as the strange man in front of them wrecked a miniature car, cracking the unrestrained egg riding inside.

Owner Peggy Simons saw the wide-eyed tykes take in the message from Tri-Development Center's Jones Bowen.

"They'll remember that," Ms. Simons said. "They are telling the children, `That will happen, so be sure to tell Mommy -- seat belt."'

As local officials celebrate National Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week with a safety check planned Saturday at Wal-Mart, child safety-seat advocates are taking their buckle-up message to a new crowd: 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.

Mr. Bowen has spent this week talking to a half-dozen day care classes about the importance of being secure while riding in a vehicle.

The goal is twofold: Get the children accustomed to hearing about child safety seats and pray they repeat the message to parents.

Stickers go home on most children for advertisement. They read: "We love you. Please buckle up."

"Children can get adults to do just about anything," Mr. Bowen said. "And children love stickers."

Targeting the younger generation comes as national statistics show more than half of the children under age 5 killed in car crashes were not riding in child safety seats.

The issue hit home in Aiken last month when an infant was killed in a head-on collision along Interstate 20. Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend is asking a federal traffic agency to review the car seat arrangement from the Jan. 11 wreck. A clip used to secure the seat belt to the car seat still was attached to the back and was unused.

And when the Aiken Rotary Club performed a recent car safety-seat check, about 90 percent of the seats were not installed properly or were unsafe.

On Saturday, the Tri-Development Center will team up with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety to "educate the public on the benefits and laws surrounding correct and consistent use of safety seats." The program, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot on 2305 Whiskey Road in Aiken, includes checking whether child safety seats are installed properly and talking to parents about the proper safety seat for their child.

Greg Rickabaugh covers police for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.