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Child car seats to be inspected this Saturday

A child car and booster seat inspection is being offered free at the Ellsworth Ambulance Service hall, 151 S. Plum St., this Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

A new booster seat law in Wisconsin requires children ages 12 and under, and weighing less than 80 pounds, to be in some type of child restraint, according to Dan L'Allier of the ambulance service. Tickets can be issued for violations. Prior to the new law, which became effective June 1, the restraint requirement applied to children ages four and younger.

"We already check bicycle helmets, so we thought it would be a good idea to do this," L'Allier said Wednesday.

He participated in a three-day course in Baldwin in August and is now a certified car seat technician, he said. The training included proper positioning of the child in the seat. Small children often get belted over their stomachs instead of their hips, for instance.

"In a serious crash, they could suffer severe abdominal injuries," he said.

A booster seat raises them up so belts not only go properly over their hips, but their shoulders, the technician said. If positioned improperly, the latter can end up in the child's face. Booster seats range in price between $50 and $100, and are available at major retailers. Quinn Motors in Ellsworth, sponsor of Saturday's event along with Safe Kids of River Falls and the ambulance service, has made several such seats available to be given to those who can't afford to buy their own.

L'Allier advised disposing of seats older than six-years-old, noting the manufacturing date is right on the seat. Plastics may break down over time, he said. Checks will be done at Saturday's event for recalls and after-market products.

Parents shouldn't buy seats at garage or other sales, he said, explaining they might have been damaged in an accident, even if that's not apparent. The owner's manual may not come with the seat, either.

Children are encouraged to accompany their parents Saturday so technicians can be sure each seat fits its occupant correctly, he said. Besides learning about proper positioning, students taking this summer's course were taught the installation process and how to secure handicapped children for transport.

The West Central Regional Trauma organization, sponsor of the training taken by around 20 students in two classes, paid for L'Allier's and others' participation, he said. It was conditional upon them agreeing to volunteer at no less than two car and booster seat inspections like the one locally Saturday morning. Thus, he hopes to have at least one other technician present, enabling two families to be served at a time.

Appointments are being requested and those interested are urged to make one as soon as possible by calling 273-4879. Each appointment is expected to last approximately 30 minutes. The service will be provided on a one-on-one basis.

The event was scheduled for now because organizers wanted it after children were back in school, but before winter, the technician said.

"We'd like to do this annually," he said.