SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah Chatham Metro Police officers hope to improve the safety of children riding in cars with new a certification.
Thirteen SCMPD officers completed the National Child Passenger Safety Certification class taught by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, allowing them to learn and teach the best safety techniques for car seat safety.
"One of the things we see a lot as officers, not just in traffic stops, not just in accidents, but just in general, we see children left improperly restrained in vehicles," said APO Marvin Williams, an SCMPD crime prevention officer for the downtown precinct.
Mom Maggie Lee has three daughters ranging in age from 5 to 8 years old. Each has her own car seat based on her age and weight and is buckled in before every trip.
"Car seats are the number one rule," Lee said. "(They know) to buckle as soon as we get in the car. Every day."
That isn't the norm for every family driving in Savannah. Savannah-Chatham Metro Police officers have given 200 child restraint citations so far in 2017.
Williams said no matter what division officers work, they see children riding in cars without car seats all the time.
"Putting that child seat in might be difficult," he said. "In some cases, it might be tedious, but how much is your child's life worth?"
Williams said it's important to be sure the seat fits the child's height, weight and developmental needs as well as the vehicle. He also said it must be installed properly to work properly and shouldn't move from side to side.
"(If there's) too much motion at the base where they should be connected, the lower lap belt that actually holds it might not be tightened all the way and the seat will move more than one inch, either way, either side to side or front to back," Williams said. "The seat installed improperly adds to the danger that the child is now going to experience in the case of an accident."
If a child is in a car seat when a car is involved in an accident over 20 miles per hour, Williams said the seat has done its job and needs to be replaced.
He also said parents or caregivers shouldn't attach any kind of toys or additions to a car seat.
"Anything that did not come with the seat, anything that when you pulled that seat out of that box and it's not on that car seat, don't put it there," Williams said. "It becomes detrimental to the child. It can become a weapon, unfortunately, that could hurt the child. It can also lessen the viability of the car seat."
Lee says keeping her kids out of harm's way is the reason she keeps buckling them in before every drive.
"Make sure that my kids are safe," Lee said. "You know, safety's first. We just want to make sure that nothing happens to our babies."
If you want help installing your car seat, all of the department's crime prevention officers are certified. Williams said they'll show you how to do it, then watch you properly put it into the car.
"One of the things we see as police officers - whether you're crime prevention, whether you're SWAT, whether you're traffic - we see what happens to those who can't take care of themselves, those who are in need of someone else to care for them," Williams said. "To be able to give a parent, a caregiver another tool to make sure that their child, their charge is safe is awesome."