PALO ALTO, CA--April 15, 2013: When Alayne Brunner arrived at the Child Safety Car Seat Fitting Station at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital last week for her second visit, she didn't know she was making history.
“We discovered this was our 20,000th car seat fitting”
"My daughter was born last year and I was happy to take her home from the hospital in a properly fitted car seat," Brunner said. "She has now outgrown it, so I came back to ensure that her new seat was installed as perfectly as the last one."
But the appointment turned out to mark more than just a family's commitment to keeping their toddler safe. When crunching the numbers, child passenger safety technician Benjamin Arias revealed a nation-leading stat. "We discovered this was our 20,000th car seat fitting," Arias said. "It's a milestone we're extremely proud of, and it confirms we have the largest and most successful car seat fitting program of any hospital in America."
That means lots of happy families are driving their newborns and children safely. "Parents are thankful for what we do," said safety technician Salvador Vargas, who has partnered with Arias in double-checking every clip, strap and fastener since the program began in 2004. "Car seats are complicated, and more than 80 percent are not installed properly by parents," Vargas said. "That's why fitting is so important. Not only do we demonstrate the proper way to install a seat along with the ins and outs of child restraints, but we also show families how to safely place their child in a seat."
"It's really all about teaching the parents," said Nancy Sanchez, community relations manager at Packard Children's. "We even have them prove they can do a proper car seat installation themselves before they leave their appointment."
Not all car seats are compatible with every vehicle and written instructions from a manufacturer can be confusing, Vargas added. During a family's free 30-minute appointment, Arias and Vargas certify the car seat the family is using has not been recalled, and they also provide information about ratings and laws. Additionally, they offer advice on how to use a car seat on an airplane.
Both being dads, Arias and Vargas bring a strong personal connection to the free community service. "We know how excited parents feel when expecting a baby," said Arias, who recommends families receive their fittings around a month before their baby is due. "We even do tweaks and adjustments after a baby is born and at any time throughout childhood," he said.
From minivans to Mini Coopers, Arias and Vargas said they are ready to crawl into another 20,000 cars to help ensure the safety of newborns and young children. During the process, they'll likely encounter a familiar refrain.
"Sometimes we'll have people come to an appointment and say, €˜I've done everything and I'm not certain there is anything more you can show me about a car seat,'" Arias said. "After we go through the fitting, they'll say 'Wow, I guess I didn't know everything after all.'"
The Maggie Adalyn Otto Car Seat Fitting Station at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, part of the Kohl's Child Safety & Outreach Program, is open Monday through Saturday. Appointments can be scheduled at Car Seat Fitting or by calling (650) 736-2981. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has car seat safety information at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .