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Proper car seat usage following law change

LAWTON, Okla._There are some big changes for parents of young children in Oklahoma. An act changing the law on safety seats goes into effect November 1.

The act says children are required to be in a safety until they are 8 years old or are taller than 4’9”, whichever comes first.

It's one of several changes in the requirements for buckling kids in. If you get pulled over and your child is not properly strapped into the age-appropriate seat, you’ll be fined $50 and must cover all of the associated court costs.

"My 7-year-old is a very small 7-year-old, so I'm wanting to see if she is in a proper car seat. Because the booster seat she is in may or may not be appropriate because she is so small,” Melody Redbird Post, a mother of four, said.

Post is a certified passenger safety technician. She says she also had to become more aware of how the changes will directly impact her family.

"Look how the seat belt fits your child when they are buckling up in the car. If it’s properly fitted across the chest and across the hips, if their feet are hanging over the seat and they can’t place both feet flat on the floor of the car,” Post said.

Yvette Zotigh, the Kiowa Tribe's injury prevention coordinator, says the changes are potentially life-saving, as long as parents strap their children in properly.

"If it’s up here, look what's going to happen. He's going to be swung forward, could you imagine he could be decapitated," Zotigh said.

Among the changes going into effect November 1, children under the age of four will be required to be secured in a child passenger restraint system, children between the ages of four and eight and are under the height of 4'9” must be restrained in the proper car seat or booster seat. The changes can be challenging for parents of older children.

"Train them to make it a healthy habit to keep that strap where it’s going to be, because that’s the purpose,” Zotigh said.

Installing a car seat properly isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly needed for your child’s safety.

"It’s really complicated sometimes to get them where they don’t move,” Post said.

But it’s always worth getting right The new safety seat law states that babies and toddlers must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old. It’s a big change for the moms who want their kids facing forward.

"It’s natural, you want to be able to see if your child is choking, spitting up or whatever, which is natural, but now the law is the infant has to be rear facing," Zotigh explained.

Babies should be safely secured in a non-moving car seat. The strap should fit snuggly across the chest, one of your fingers should be able to fit between the strap and the child. The child’s body should be flat against the back of the car seat.

It’s also important to keep track of warranty information and safety recalls. Car seats are also no longer considered a safe product if they’ve been involved in a car crash.

If you are interested in going to a car seat check event, the Kiowa Tribe will be holding their annual Health and Safety Fair on October 30 from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Kiowa Tribal Complex inside Red Buffalo Hall. They also will raffle off a few free car seats.

You can read the full text of the act, HB 1847, here.

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