The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety was in Morgan County last Friday helping two Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a Walton County Sheriff’s Office employee complete training that will save lives.

The training, part of the National Child Safety Week, taught deputies Bo Kelly and Jeff Hamby and Walton County administrator Kelly Lewis the proper way to both install child safety seats and how to spot an incorrectly installed seat in a vehicle.

According to Ed Weaver, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the training is a crucial first step in raising awareness with parents of children on the effectiveness of child safety seats when they are properly installed. Often, he said, they are not.

“Ninety percent of the child safety seats on the road are installed incorrectly,” he said. That deficiency contributes to the annual number of children under 15-years-old killed in car crashes each year. In 2020, Weaver said, 50 children were killed in car crashes. This year, that number is at 39 children, up 22 percent from last year. For adults, 1,253 people were killed in car crashes in 2020. As of last Friday, 1,053 people had died from car crashes on Georgia Highways this year.

Weaver said typically a parent will not read car seat instructions prior to putting the seat in the vehicle. Emerson Lundy, an instructor with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said most parents also don’t realize car seats come with an expiration date. Lundy said most car seats are ineffective after six years or after a crash. Any “small misuse” in the installation of a car seat can lead to a fatality, Weaver said. Used correctly, however, they can save lives.

“We’ve seen wrecks where it looked like nobody should survive and the parents had on seat belts and the children were in a car seat correctly installed and they all walked away without a scratch.”

The team from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety started Friday’s training at a local car dealership where officers were familiarized with various seat belts, air bags and other security devices on various brands of vehicles. They ended the day at Lemon Tree Academy Day Care on Eatonton Road during pickup time to check on car seats and their installation. Weaver said if they encountered a car seat during that time that was damaged or out of date the group would replace the seat at no cost.

With Friday’s final exercise the 32 hour training class would be complete and the two Morgan County officers will then be able to teach local officers the importance of proper installation. They will then, said Deputy Kelly, be able to organize safety seat fitting stations for parents to bring their vehicle to the station for installation review. “Hopefully we’ll be able to save some lives,” Kelly said.

Weaver said that is the crux of the training and of the exercise. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, he said, is ordered to “reduce injuries and fatalities on the roadways.”

“This is a major step in doing that,” he said.

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