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December 10, 2007

C.S. Mott Buckle Up! program saves life of Ann Arbor infant

Ann Arbor, MI – When Ann Arbor resident Caitlin Rowe read an e-mail from a friend about a car seat safety inspection run by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, she thought it would be a great opportunity to make sure her then four-month-old daughter, Ellie, was buckled up correctly in the backseat of her car.

Car seatLess than three weeks later, when she and Ellie were involved in a car crash, Rowe could not have felt more fortunate for the recent checkup.

Ellie’s car seat was on the passenger side of the car when Rowe went to the off-site C.S. Mott Buckle Up! inspection in Ypsilanti in September. The certified child passenger safety technicians helped Rowe make several corrections to the seat including untwisting and tightening the harness straps, removing a locking clip that had been used incorrectly, and moving the seat to the center position to keep Ellie farther away from any possible intrusion.  

The advice could not have come at a better time, considering what happened in October. At the intersection of Hewitt and Packard roads in Washtenaw County, Rowe’s car was hit by a driver running a red light, spun 180 degrees through lanes of traffic, and slammed into the cars behind and adjacent to her. The crash ultimately involved six vehicles and left her 2000 Honda Civic totaled. 

The car that hit Rowe smashed into the very place her daughter had been sitting before the inspection.

“Had Ellie still been sitting on that passenger side who knows what the difference could have been,” says Rowe. “There is no doubt that we are incredibly lucky.”

Amy Teddy, program manager for injury prevention at the Pediatric Trauma Center at Mott, agrees. “This is a great example of how taking the time to prepare in advance really does work. There are so many variables when it comes to installing a car seat, so it is difficult for parents to get it right. Taking the time to have a certified technician do an inspection really can save lives,” says Teddy.

According to Safe Kids USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injury, only 10 percent of car seats are installed properly, yet 95 percent of parents think their child’s seat is safe. C.S. Mott’s Child Passenger Safety Coordinator Dianne DeGregorio points out that statistics such as this emphasize how valuable an inspection truly is.

Looking back, Rowe is grateful that she took the short time to make a big step in ensuring her daughter’s safety. She feels certain that the Buckle Up! program aided in saving Ellie’s life. For her, the 20-minute inspection was time well spent.

“The process was so quick and so easy,” says Rowe. “My husband and I thought the car seat was safe, but we realized it was not 100 percent safe. The inspection was definitely worthwhile.”

To read more about the Buckle Up! Car Seat Inspection Program at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and its car seat regulations and tips, visit their Web site. The Mott Buckle Up! program and the Pediatric Trauma Program are part of the Pediatric Surgery division at the U-M Health System.

Appointments are free and can be made by calling the Buckle Up! Hotline at 734-763-2251.

Teddy and DeGregorio offer these tips for improving car seat safety:

  • Selection—choosing an appropriate seat for the child
  • Direction—keeping children rear facing as long as possible, preferably until the rear-facing weight limit of the convertible seat
  • Location—determining the best seating position in the vehicle
  • Installation—installing the seat so that it does not move more than one inch side to side or forward
  • Putting the child in the seat properly—making sure the harness is through the correct slots and snug with no slack.

The number of errors could be reduced if parents carefully read both the manual for the car seat and for the vehicle in which it is being placed, Teddy and DeGregorio say. After attempting to install the car seat, parents are encouraged to have it checked out by a certified child safety technician.

Written by: Laura Drouillard

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