Concerns raised after recent wreck

Mauricio Julian Cuellar, Alice Echo-News Journal

After some local children were injured during a traffic accident on Monday, concerns of safety seat installation were raised and the Department of Public Safety and Alice Police Department officials said they are available to assist.

Sgt. Richard Palacios, with the Department of Public Safety, said DPS could help parents install child safety seats.

"The assistance we provide would be per manufacturer's recommendations, following their instructions as to proper installation. There are liability issues involved, so people have to be very cautious about the assistance they give," Palacios said.

For every car seat, the manufacture is very specific with the directions and following the instructions are important, Palacios said.

He said the department this year has had only one request for child safety seat assistance, but if parents call the department they would schedule a time for a trooper to assist them.

Under the law, a child passenger must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system in a moving vehicle if the child is younger than five years of age, and less than 36-inches in height, according to manufacturer's instructions system. A violation could result in a fine between $100 to $200, according to the statute.

Too many parents are still not properly using the new safety LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) technology designed to better secure child safety seats to vehicles because of a lack of education, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released December 2006.

"LATCH was supposed to simplify child safety seat installation for parents and this study shows that isn't happening." said NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason.

The Alice Police Department also has two officers who are available to assist parents secure car safety seats. Besides helping individuals with questions on a one-to-one basis, Police Chief Daniel Bueno said the department could also offer Saturday classes to educate the public on proper safety seat installation.

Bueno said the department is willing to host a class at the station or at another location.

"Yes, definitely, if a group wants us to host it, we would be glad to host a class here. My granddaughter just got a new car seat, and even I had a hard time taking it out of the car. Definitely, we would assist them," Bueno said.

APD officers will also check the vehicle for any seat belt defects or damage to the seat, Bueno said.

"Our officers, who are extensively trained in traffic duty are very familiar if there is a defect or not, or whether (the safety seat) will work or not work," he said.

The results from the NHTSA study are available on their Web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. The Web site provides scoring information and other tips to assist parents who have questions concerning their children's safety in a vehicle.