Coatesville police score cache of children’s car seats

Free safety equipment will be available to area residents

 By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Y’vette Gayle, the Southeast regional coordinator for the American Academy of Pediatrics, goes over literature for the Traffic Injury Prevention Project with Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis.

The Coatesville Police Department has scored a car-seat coup.

Earlier this week, it received a shipment of 52 child-passenger safety seats, which will be distributed free to area residents in need, said Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis. In fact, several have already been installed, Ollis said Friday.

The bounty came through the Traffic Injury Prevention Project, a statewide child-safety initiative.  Y’vette Gayle, the Southeast regional coordinator for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which administers the program, said it is funded locally by PennDOT through fines collected from those cited for infractions of Pennsylvania’s child-passenger protection laws.

Gayle said using police departments to distribute the seats is new in the region, and she is optimistic about the partnerships – debuting in Coatesville and Norristown. Police officers are well-positioned not only to identify worthy recipients but also to provide the educational component of the program, she said.

Y’vette Gayle, who runs the regional Traffic Injury Prevention Project, watches as Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis arranges the car-seat stash in the department’s basement.

“Our goal is to have every child in the appropriate safety seat,” said Gayle, adding that the seats must also be properly installed.

Gayle said she met Ollis when he took a training course to become a certified car-seat technician, training that must be periodically updated. Having someone oversee the program with his expertise is a bonus, she said.

Ollis said he is looking forward to the opportunity to improve the safety of child passengers. He said many parents do not fully understand the law and often inadvertently install the seats incorrectly. One of the added benefits of supplying them will be the education that accompanies the installation process. Another benefit is the chance to build community relationships, he said.

“Instead of just issuing a citation, an officer will be able to suggest a preventative option” by sending those who violate the law to get the proper seat, Ollis said.

According to state law, all children from birth to age 4 must be secured in an approved car seat. A rear-facing seat is recommended until age 2. All children under age 13 should ride in a back seat. Children from age 4 to 8 must be secured in a seat-belt system and an appropriately-fitting child booster seat.

Gayle said that when children outgrow a seat, parents should return it and get one that is age appropriate. She said the returned seats are not reused for safety reasons, and she does not recommend secondhand seats. Most child car seats have a limited life expectancy and should be retired, she said.

Coatesville’s shipment, currently stacked in the basement of the police department, includes infant, convertible, combination, high-back boosters and no-back boosters. Ollis said as long as the department fulfills the program’s requirements, which include the educational component and the completion of paperwork, the city will be eligible for more seats. “We’ll be handing these out while supplies last,” he said.

Anyone from the Coatesville area with a demonstrated need who is interested in requesting a child-safety seat should contact Ollis at 610-384-2300, ext. 3242.

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