By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, “In the United States, 663 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes during 2015.” Thirty-five (35) percent of those children were not restrained in a car seat or with a seat belt.
One tribal program of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is working to make sure that Cherokee children are safe when riding in a vehicle.
“We hope to prevent accidents because it’s getting bad the way that some parents do not put their kids in a seat anymore,” said Savannah Farmer, CNA, EBCI Car Seat Program coordinator.
The program has set up a car seat check station at the EBCI Beloved Women’s and Children’s Center where families can have their car seats inspected for proper installation and maximum safety. The program has car seats available for purchase at $20 each with high-back booster seats being $10. “We do make accomodations for those who might be financially struggling.”
There are a total of 18 new car seat technicians trained all over the Qualla Boundary, and the Car Seat Program can put families in touch with one. And, their services are not limited to EBCI families. “With this checking station, we are allowed to check anyone that comes to us,” Farmer noted. “If you come to me, I will help you.”
Seats are checked at the station for proper installation, but they’re also checked for structural integrity. Those seats deemed unsafe are taken to the Cherokee Fire Department for disposal and recycling. “Our seats are good for five years. Come to us whenever you need a seat. We are here.”
A car seat check event will be held at Cherokee Fire Department Station 1 on Wednesday, July 11 from 2 – 6:30pm.
The program is currently contracted through Safe Kids Worldwide and soon the program will be known as Cherokee Indian Reservation Safe Kids Coalition. According to the organization’s website, “Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to protecting kids from unintentional injuries, the number one cause of death to children in the United States. Throughout the world, almost 1 million children die of injuries each year.”
The Tribe defers to North Carolina state law on the subject of seat belts and child seat restraints. According to N.C. General Statute 20-137.1, driver can be fined up to $25 for not having passengers age 15 and under “properly secured in a child passenger restraint system or seat belt”.
The CDC recommends the following for child seat restraint usage:
- Rear-facing car seat for birth to age 2 or when they reach the upper limits (weight, height) of their seat
- Forward-facing car seat for ages 2-5 or when they reach the upper limits of their seat
- Booster seat for ages 5 until seat belts fit properly
- Seat Belt usage when they fit properly; Information from the CDC states, “Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt lays across the chest, not the neck.”
The Car Seat Program is open Monday – Friday 8am – 4pm and can be reached at 359-6216.