I participated in a mandatory car seat checkpoint early Wednesday morning. The police pick a part of town where they feel there’s a problem with misuse/nonuse of child restraints, set up a road block, and send every vehicle with a car seat into a parking lot where eager child passenger safety technicians wait to tackle the fun stuff. As much as I enjoy doing what I do, I can’t say I was too eager since we needed to be there before 6:45a (I usually roll out of bed mumbling not-so-nice words at around 7:10a) and I squeaked into the parking lot just before 7a.
Setup was easy for us—just show up with our Safe Kids van and trailer in tow. We had a couple of infant seats, many Sceneras, a few highback boosters, and a handful of backless boosters to hand out; the police department provides us with the seats. Unlike previous mandatories, this one started off very slow. It took a good half hour before the parking lot was full. Most of the people pulled over were understanding and thankful, knowing that their kids were much better off leaving than they were when they pulled in the lot. Some people, on the other hand, were irate after receiving tickets for not having their kids buckled according to our law of 6 years and 60 lbs. One woman made it her mission to let everyone in the parking lot, including her children and everyone else’s, know that her vocabulary consisted of one word beginning with the letter F. I guess Little Miss Sunshine, as I dubbed her, was having a bad day.
About 50% of the kids we see at mandatories are completely unbuckled. We see a 100% misuse rate. Where in the world does that 80% misuse rate come from that everyone always quotes for national statistics? They sure haven’t visited here. This is what we have driving around on our streets in my city. I’m glad we have the buy-in from our police force to do these mandatories. Even just a few years ago they stopped doing them for budget reasons, but they saw the light. It’s important work. I didn’t get a final count of how many seats we fixed today, but it was well over 120 in the 3 hours we were out there. So many kids riding safer today than they were yesterday morning.
(One final side note: don’t wear pjs when you’re driving your kids to school because you never know when you’re going to be stopped at a car seat checkpoint ).