Barrow coalition aims to reduce child fatalities

WINDER -- Lt. Scott Dakin has a simple but vital message for parent drivers: Children should be properly restrained every time they ride in a vehicle -- no matter if it's a short drive down the street.

Dakin, spokesman for Barrow County Emergency Services and an outspoken child safety advocate, applauded the work of a Barrow County coalition that aims to reduce child fatalities on the region's roadways. Dakin points to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics that show vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children ages 1 to 12.

To raise awareness on a broader scale, the week ending Saturday was declared National Child Passenger Safety Week.

"It's imperative that parents and guardians put children in the right seat at the right time in the right way," said Dakin.

The coalition -- a joint effort by Barrow County Emergency Services and the county's Sheriff's Office -- works to ensure that citizens understand laws pertaining to child passenger seats, and how to safely transport children.

Headed by Barrow County Sheriff Deputy Ed Weaver, the coalition "has a program that many around the state and nation are looking at as a successful way of operating," Dakin said. "They have the highest record of documented saves for children involved in accidents in all of Georgia. That means a child's life was saved when involved in an accident because their parent or caregiver went through the education program offered in Barrow County."

And the group's work is portable.

Weaver has worked with Zetta Jones, Georgia Department of Public Health program coordinator, teaching the Certified Child Passenger Seat Technician course. They work with law enforcement agencies and Fire Departments around the state and have educated thousands of parents on the safest way to transport children, Dakin said.

The coalition hosts car seat checks periodically throughout the year. They also work with Barrow County Court system by offering a class on child safety seats to citizens ticketed for improperly restrained children.

"The class is offered to first-time offenders and allows them to take the class and learn how to properly secure their child, instead of receiving a fine," Dakin said.

In motor vehicle crashes, properly used car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for children younger than 1, and by 54 percent for children ages 1 to 4 in passenger cars, according NHTSA data.

For more information, contact the Barrow County Sheriff's Office Traffic Division at 770-867-1383 or visit the NHTSA website at www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS.

"We want to make sure all of Barrow County's children are safe every time they ride in a vehicle," said Dakin. "It can truly make the difference between life and death."