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County corrects child car seat confusion

County inspectors rarely find correctly installed car seats at checks

Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor Bill Van Alstyne correctly installs a car seat inside a vehicle at Crossgates Mall Wednesday, July 17. Out of 55 cars checked, not a single car seat had been installed properly.

Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor Bill Van Alstyne correctly installs a car seat inside a vehicle at Crossgates Mall Wednesday, July 17. Out of 55 cars checked, not a single car seat had been installed properly. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— A three-hour child safety seat inspection at Crossgates Mall this past Wednesday came up par for the course when not a single car seat brought to the experts was installed correctly.

The check – run by the Albany County Department of Public Works Traffic Safety Education Programs, Capital Region Safe Kids, the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and Crossgates Mall – was one of several that take place throughout the year aimed at teaching parents how to safely install their child’s car seat. While Albany County Executive Dan McCoy called the 55 incorrectly installed car seats on Wednesday, July 17, an “eye opener,” Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor Bill Van Alstyne said the tally was not surprising.

“It’s an underground shocking thing that a lot of people don’t know until they come here. Parents are trying their best to get it right, it’s just that it’s very confusing and counterintuitive,” Van Alstyne said.

Van Alstyne, who is the program director of the county Traffic Safety Education Program, said wrongly installing the car seat is not the parent’s fault. Even after reading the written instructions, they still need to be educated hands-on for the instructions to make sense.

To become an instructor, Van Alstyne said he had to go through a full four-day, 32-hour course to be certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids Worldwide, and he has to be recertified every two years with six additional hours of training.

Mary Rozak, spokeswoman for McCoy, said officials noticed several problems with the car seats during the recent inspection. Some seats had expired or were under recall, unbeknownst to the parents, while others weren’t installed tightly enough or anchored correctly.

Each vehicle and car seat is different, which can cause confusion, Van Alstyne said.

“Unfortunately a misused car seat can be deadly in a traffic crash,” he added.

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