Car seat safety urged after numerous violations over Memorial Day weekend

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Public safety officials are reminding parents of the importance of properly restraining children in car seats after a number of violations over Memorial Day Weekend.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol gave 45 citations for child restraint violations during its "Drive to Survive" campaign, which began on Friday and ended on Memorial Day at midnight.

"We should never be so distracted or have so many things going on in our life where we are not properly restraining our children," said Mississippi Highway Patrol Captain Johnny Poulos.

Maggie Lee has three daughters and said buckling up her 4, 5 and 8-year-olds in car seats chosen specifically for their height and weight is how every car ride starts.

"Car seats are the number one rule, to buckle as soon as we get in the car," Lee said. "Every day to make sure that my kids are safe. You know safety's first. We just want to make sure that nothing happens to our babies. It is very worth it."

Mississippi seat belt law and child restraint requirements infants to 1-year-old or 20 pounds should be placed in rear-facing car seats.

"There are infant carriers that are much better than the convertible seat," said Charile Sims, assistant director of public safety at Forrest General Hospital. "You can use a convertible, but the main thing to remember is it's rear-facing. The straps are adjustable. They have slots depending on the size of the child."

Sims said if a child is from 1 year old to 4 years old or 20 pounds to 40 pounds, the car seats face forward, and convertible seats work well. Children between 4 and 7 should be buckled into booster seats.

Even if parents are using the proper car seat, Sims said they often aren't secured into cars properly. Sims said newer cars often have hooks already installed for parents to hook car seat anchors to. If parents are using a seat belt, he said to be sure to slowly extended the belt all the way until it locks before attaching the car seat.

"One of the biggest problems we discover is a car seat that is just hooked, and then can move around," Sims said. "To take that slack out, get up in the car and put as much weight on the car seat as you can while you pull that strap and adjust. Once you do that, you'll have no movement in the car seat."

In 2015, 90 percent of Mississippi children weren't buckled into a car seat properly, according to the state department of health, and a CDC study found in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat or booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.