KAHULUI - A group of new technicians, including Molokai and Lanai police officers and Maui Memorial Medical Center nurses, helped make sure child car seats were being used correctly during a weekend inspection marking the end of national Child Passenger Safety Week.
About 95 percent of the 25 car seats were improperly installed or not yet installed when they were checked Saturday during the event at the Maui Marketplace, said retired Maui police Capt. Charles Hirata, child passenger safety coordinator for Maui County.
"There were a lot of mistakes," Hirata said.
Retired Maui police Capt. Charles Hirata adjusts a car seat holding 4-month-old Ethan Figaroa while the infant’s second cousin Rayden Benitez, 5, watches. Twenty-five child car seats were checked Saturday at the Maui Marketplace as part of national Child Passenger Safety Week.
The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo
The turnout for the inspections, held to coincide with national Seat Check on Saturday, was larger than usual, Hirata said. That provided lots of hands-on experience for the 10 new child passenger safety technicians who helped inspect the child car seats on the last day of a four-day training course.
Along with six police officers, four nurses completed the training to earn certifications.
"We have been wanting them to get involved for the longest time," said Hirata, an instructor since 1998. "We're thankful the administration of the hospital gave them the time to attend the training. All of them work in the obstetrics ward. It's pretty much directly related to their job."
Michele Inamasu, one of the nurses who completed the course, said parents often ask if car seats are installed properly.
"It's one of the main questions we get," she said. "We took this class so we can be more available to the parents and give them the proper advice and the recommendations they need for safety of their baby."
Along with child seat installation, the course covered seat belt systems, air bags and other features that can differ by vehicle make, model and year.
"Some of the older vehicles can be a little more challenging," Inamasu said.
"We realize, even for our own kids, we have been installing car seats wrong all these years," she said. "There actually is a proper way to do it."
That was echoed by others in the class, including Molokai police officer Lonnie Kaai, who goes to elementary schools to teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education courses. He said he will now be able to check child car seats at community events.
"I learned there's a lot of things I was doing wrong for my kids in their car seats that I got to go home and correct myself," Kaai said.
Lanai patrol officer Stanislav Kraytchev said he notices that some Lanai residents don't know how to use child seats properly. "But if I'm not educated myself, I can't help them," he said.
His advice to parents: read the instructions that accompany car seats and take advantage of checkup events.
As the checkup began Saturday morning, Wailuku patrol officer Travis Abarra measured the height and weight of 4-year-old Xeoun Alvarez to see if his child seat was the right fit.
The Paia boy's aunts, Lana Alvarez and Imelda Botuyan, said they wanted to be sure the seat was installed properly in Alvarez's Toyota truck.
Nearby, new father Kurt Figaroa wanted to make sure his 4-month-old son, Ethan, was safe in his child car seat. "I just wanted to know the proper way," the Wailuku resident said. "Better safe than sorry."
Hirata and fellow child passenger safety instructor Curt Morimoto showed Figaroa and his parents how to position and secure the child seat in the back seat of Figaroa's sedan.
Along with asking for help with car seats, a few parents had questions about booster seats for children up to age 7, Hirata said.
"That seems to be a problem area, where people are neglecting the older children," he said. "We do an excellent job with infants, with almost 100 percent compliance. It falls off with toddlers."
Under state law, child car seats are required for children under age 4. Children from ages 4 to 7 are required to be restrained in either car seats or booster seats while riding in vehicles.
Information about upcoming child car seat inspections is available on Facebook at Maui County Child Passenger Safety.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.