As the Solley family grew in numbers – from 1 baby to 4 – so did their car seats. From rear-facing infant seats to boosters, their minivan has become a perfect example of how one size car seat doesn’t fit all.
“My husband, Charlie, has always been really good about getting our car seats checked out and learned first-hand how to properly install them through Akron Children’s Injury Prevention Program,” said Sarah Solley of Stow. “We swap the car seats out from car to car so it’s always been really important to us to make sure we have the seats in correctly and the kids are buckled in properly.”
Although this seems like a common sense approach to safeguarding a child, surprisingly, many families and caregivers either don’t use car seats or don’t know how to have them installed correctly.
“We know from research that young children still ride in cars without being secured in a car seat or booster seat and as many as 73% of child safety seats are not properly installed in cars,” said Heather Trnka, Akron Children’s Injury Prevention Coalition supervisor. “It’s important to choose a car seat based on your child’s height and weight and use it every time you get in the car – no matter if it’s just down the street or a long road trip.”
For the Solleys, a 5-minute drive from their house would put their car seat installation and restraints to the test.
It was the first day of summer vacation when Sarah buckled in her kids for a quick trip to the gym before heading to the park. While she made her way through an intersection, another vehicle struck the front of her car.
“My air bag deployed and it rattled me…it took me a second to realize what had happened,” said Sarah. “I quickly looked in my rear-view mirror to see if the kids were okay and they all just sat there staring back at me…no one was even crying at first.”
The Solley kids – ranging in age from 8 to 22 months old – had just experienced a head-on collision. But, thanks to proper car seat installation and restraints, none of the Solley kids were hurt. From their perspective, the only thing that changed was their plans for the day.
“Ironically, one of our friends saw the accident and came over to help get the kids out of the car and calmed down,” said Sarah. “Although the car was totaled, I was so thankful our kids were all okay.”
With car crashes being the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, Sarah realized the outcome of the accident could have been far worse.
“Cars can be deadly so it’s our job as parents to make sure we place our kids in the safest environment possible,” said Sarah. “For me, car seat safety is just one more thing I do to keep my kids healthy. Getting a professional opinion that I am using the proper seats and have my children buckled-in correctly is just as important as getting them to a wellness checkup…My kids grow and change and so do laws and car seats.”
In addition to being the home base for 2 Safe Kids Worldwide coalitions, Akron Children’s received a 3-year grant from The Goodyear Foundation to support a “Safe Mobility Project,” which enables the hospital and community partner organizations to expand child safety programs focusing, in part, on child passenger seats.
Part of the Safe Mobility Project focuses on providing child passenger safety education and distributing 2,500 car seats in Akron-area neighborhoods where children are at high risk for injury. It also supports a website, safemobilityproject.com, to help families determine which car seat is right for a child and how to properly buckle a child in a car seat.
“Car seats are an everyday part of life for our family so we do our best to stay informed on what’s best for them…even our kids know their car seats keep them healthy,” added Sarah.