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DPD, Head Start teach parents car seat safety

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DPD Sgt. Matthew Hanson shows parent Stephanie Dianovics how to best secure her child Isabella in a car seat. The car seat safety checkups are a regular event for the DPD. The final 2019 session was held at Sax Motor Company Thursday. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

The Dickinson Police Department, in conjunction with Community Action Partnership Head Start and the North Dakota Highway Patrol, held a car seat safety checkup at Sax Motor Co. on Wednesday.

The four-hour community session is an event for the DPD, Sgt. Matthew Hanson explained.

"Once every other month we'll do a car seat checkup event where we encourage parents to either sign up, get a time slot, or if they have questions just to stop over," he said.

The event is the seventh the DPD has hosted this year.

Checking the car seat is a simple process.

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First, Hanson will make sure it is installed correctly upon arrival. He will pull the seat out and check the seat for any recalls. If it's been in accidents, he will do checks on the seat. After, he will explain how to properly install the seat.

"If the child's here, we go over specific things," he said. "Kids are all different shapes and sizes, so we'll go over how the harnesses fit each child. Tips and tricks as far as, if the seat isn't fitting perfectly, we'll have pool noodles or a seat cover, just different things on how to make it fit better for your car."

Parents don't just observe — they participate, Carolyn Morowski, CAP family partnership coordinator, said.

"We always make sure the parents are the ones educated, and we have them install the seats so we can make sure they're using their seats correctly every time, even if they're moving into another car," she said.

The most common error or deficiency Hanson sees is the car seat not being set tight enough.

"You don't want the seat to be able to move more than an inch," he said.

In winter months especially, Hanson warns parents to make sure the straps are tight enough over the child.

"A lot of times kids will wear jackets in their car seats and we recommend those straps are right on top of the little one's body," he said.

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Only a half hour into Thursday's event, DPD and Head Start had already helped five people. Usually the events help 20 or more people.

Parent Stephanie Dianovics, there with young children, was grateful for the service.

"I wanted to make sure my child seats are properly installed for their safety," she said, "because I love them and they're my children."

For Head Start, it's about serving the community's population of children from ages 0 to 5.

"That is a huge population that's riding in those car seats and we want to make sure the kids are safe while they're doing it," Morowski said.

Head Start is also readying to become a distribution site for car seats.

"We don't have any yet, but we will in the future be able to provide car seats at a low cost to low income families," Morowski said.

Hanson said he enjoys the events.

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"Parents seem definitely appreciative of how we help them," he said. "You can see how new parents can be a little overwhelmed, and when they leave they feel a little more comfortable about the process."

One of the best parts of the events, Morowski said, is helping parents.

"It's awesome to educate families on things they may think they know a lot about, but it seems every family who comes to a checkup event learns something new," she said.

Help with car seats is available anytime at Dickinson Police Department, Hanson said.

"There's two of us at the police department now who do it. At any point in time, you can just stop up or I can meet somebody," he said. "Head Start does the same thing, too."

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