Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 6, 2013

HEALTH: Program provides parents with car seats and – more importantly – educates families on how to use properly

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A child seat safety class offered in Jack-sonville by Living Alternatives Inc., 807 S. Jackson, not only provides families with free car seats, but gives them the knowledge to travel safely with their children onboard.

“We share little facts with them during class to make them stop and think,” said program manager Jackie Mitchell.

Like how if a 10-pound baby is traveling in a car that driving 30 miles per hour and there's an accident in which the child is ejected from his seat, “that baby will hit the windshield with 300 ponds of pressure,” she said.

“That's like a six-week old baby. Imagine what a 25-lb baby would be doing at 75 on the interstate. Not only could legal liabilities filed against you, but you've got to live knowing you did something you know could have been prevented if you used had used common sense,” she said.

And that is where the SafeRiders program comes in.

Funded by federal grants through the Texas Department of Trans-portation, it is part of a Texas Department of State Health Services program.

According to the DSHS website, approximately 80 communities are taking part in the program, which distributes between 10,000 and 15,000 seats each year to Texas parents.

Agencies like Living Alternatives offer one-hour classes to educate parents about proper use of their child's car seat.

In Jacksonville, classes have been offered twice monthly since May 2006.

“We had been providing our mothers with little infant carriers – sometimes we had to buy brand-new if someone didn't donate them,” Mitchell said. Parents “came back when their babies (got bigger), because they not able to purchase seats on their own.”

After hearing about the Safe Riders program, Living Alternatives decided to get on board, offering convertible seats that can be used a rear-facing seat for a child as young as a five-pound newborn or a forward-facing seat for a child up to 40 pounds.

The agency also has available booster seats with a removable high back, for children weighing 30 to 100 pounds.

To date, the Jack-sonville agency has distributed an estimated 100 or more seats a year free of cost.

“The whole point of this program is to educate (families). We're not just providing them with a safe seat, we're educating them on how to use that seat, and train others to use it correctly, too,” Mitchell said. “Nobody leaves home expecting to have an accident – you need to be prepared, because the baby can't be prepared. It's the parent's responsibility.”

Parents can call Mitchell at 903-986-9016 to register for classes.

Through the Safe Riders program, parents and caregivers also have the option to have their child's safety seat inspected to ensure that it is safe to use and is being used correctly, according to the DSHS website.