SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Eight out every 10 child safety seats are improperly installed in vehicles, according to safety experts in the States.

The problem is bad enough that a number of private and government agencies are helping get the word out to parents and offering instruction on proper installation. Safety officials at Sasebo decided it was high time to start a campaign to help put people on the right track here.

After attending a law enforcement-run class in Virginia on safety seats earlier this year, safety inspector Charles Carr — responsible for recreation and off-duty safety for Sasebo’s safety office — is creating an education campaign to teach parents the ins and outs of something that could save precious lives.

“Improperly belted children result in the most deaths and injuries of children,” he said. “Car crashes are a big killer of children. People don’t understand that.”

There are simple explanations behind many improperly installed seats, Carr said. Parents might buy the wrong type of seat for their child or vehicle or might ignore instruction manuals when installing the seats.

Or, children might not be properly harnessed, he said. Babies are safest facing backward in the rear seat so, in a front-end impact, the seat would roll up and over the child, thereby protecting him or her.

Second-hand safety seats might be damaged or too old. Some may be under recall because of a defect.

“A lot of parents don’t bother to go on the Web and check things out,” Carr added.

Differences in laws and standards may cause confusion among parents. U.S. Forces Japan as well as the Navy have rules governing the use of child seats. Japan has its own laws.

While parents off base might not use a safety seat or might use it properly, Carr hopes everyone on base — including Japanese workers — will benefit from the education his office can provide.

The safety office has always provided help and information to those who seek it, he said, but starting this summer it plans to be more active in getting out the message.

Programs will begin with command ombudsmen filtering information to the community. Carr intends to offer classes to Americans and Japanese employees.

At last month’s safety fair, he created a poster showing do’s and don’ts and answered questions.

Eventually, the program could educate law enforcement so the base could have child seat safety checks, said Safety Manager James Whalen. The goal isn’t to punish parents but rather to help them understand the problem, he said.

“I don’t think anybody wants to put a child in a seat that will put them in harm’s way,” he said.

The program could also start at the gate, he said. Gate guards could, for example, hand out brochures to anyone driving on base with a child, alerting them that seats often are improperly installed.

No incidents or accidents prompted the invigorated focus, just the urge for more safety, Whalen said.

“Now we’re just taking it to a new level,” he said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now