SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Several nearby counties, including a few within the Coastal Health District, have received Child Passenger Safety Mini-Grants.
The Georgia Department of Public Health’s Injury Prevention Program-Child Occupant Safety Project awarded the grant to more than 70 counties across the state.
The mini-grant program has provided education, car seats and booster seats to Georgia counties since 2007.
It helps support county health departments and their community partners in their efforts to reduce the number of children injured or killed in car accidents.
The program has helped more than 385 Georgia children who were involved in crashes avoid serious injury or death, according to the DPH.
Counties selected to receive the grant in 2021 include Chatham, Coffee, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, McIntosh, Screven and Tattnall.
While the car seat mini-grant does not distribute cash funds, the program does supply car seats, technical assistance and training support to recipients, according to a Coastal Health District spokesperson.
One of the grant program’s key components is equipping health department workers with the tools necessary to educate parents about installing and using their child’s car seats correctly.
In Chatham County, certified child passenger safety technicians offer car seat checks to families with children in an effort to ensure the potentially life-saving devices are properly installed.
“Since I’ve been certified as a technician, we have done 45 seat checks, and we’re just checking over to make sure they’re okay,” said Chatham County Health Department pediatric nurse practitioner Sierra Peebles.
“I’ve been a technician since 2018 and I have never, ever checked a seat that has been 100% correct, whether it be that the child’s in the seat wrong, the seat’s in the car wrong or there’s something that’s in the seat that is going to hinder the seat from doing its job,” Peebles told WSAV NOW.
In addition to education, the grant allows health departments to provide car seats to families that need them and may not be able to afford them.
“We can do that for low-income families that typically are having to go out to yard sales or Goodwill to find a seat that may be damaged or expired,” Peebles said.
She says the Chatham County Health Department has given out at least 50 convertible car seats.
“That is a seat that can be rear-facing for an infant or forward-facing for a toddler, and we’ve given out four booster seats for older children,” she said.
The pediatric nurse practitioner says because so many children are killed each year in car accidents, programs like the Child Passenger Safety Mini-Grant are crucial.
“Everyone thinks the same thing: ‘that’s not going to happen to me,’ or, ‘I’m a safe driver,’ but you have to account for everyone else on the road,” Peebles said, adding that three out of four car seat checks reveal some sort of issue with the car seat’s installation.
“People are not educating themselves when they’re having a baby on what type of seat they need to be in, how to install that in a car and how to make sure they’re not putting things in the car seat that can hinder the seat from doing its job properly,” Peebles said.
“By us providing this education, we hope we’re saving lives and we hope we’re educating these parents, like, ‘hey, you are putting your kid at risk but let’s fix it, we can easily fix it by taking five minutes to pay a little bit more attention and to read a car seat manual,’” she said.
Peebles notes that each month through the end of the calendar year, the Chatham County Health Department will receive six convertible child seats and four booster seats that can be given to families as needed.
As a reminder to the public, she adds that the mini-grant primarily serves to assist families who can’t afford car seats.
“We’re here to help those that truly need the seat; otherwise, their child may die,” Peebles said.
“Currently, our only qualification to get a seat is [that] you do have to be a part of the WIC program in Chatham County to get one of our seats,” she said.