"We are able to do checks on the child safety seats as well as go over the proper installation as well," Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Casey Judge told The Brazil Times.
Funding for the program was provided through a grant Governor's Council on Impaired and Dangerous Driving, and Judge, along with Sheriff Mike Heaton and Chief Deputy Rob Gambill, are available, by appointment, as child passenger safety technicians to inspect car seats and instruct families on how to properly secure the seats in their vehicles for safer traveling.
In addition to checking the car seats, the department also inspects how a seat belt fits on other children as well.
"To make sure the seat belt fits properly, we can also make checks on children under the age of 13," Judge said. "While there are guidelines for how old a child should be before switching from the car seat to the seat belt, a big factor is actually dependant on the height and weight of the child."
On Friday, James and Cathy Bush, Brazil, brought their vehicle to the department, along with daughter, Rachel, 10, and son James Jr., 20 months, to have their car seat and seat belts inspected.
"I think this is a neat program," Cathy told The Brazil Times. "I found out about it when I went with a friend to WIC, but it is definitely something I will come back to when the time comes to change out the car seat."
Judge said the focus of the program is to ensure child safety seats are installed properly and are as secure as possible.
"There are a lot of little things that can be done to make a car seat extremely secure," Judge said. "While it is recommended to have the seat face the rear of the vehicle, there are so many compact cars out there that it is sometimes difficult to do that, so you do what you have to do in order to make things as safe as possible for the little ones, which sometimes depends on the vehicle as well."
Judge told The Brazil Times if a family does not have a car seat, but is in need of one, the department may be able to provide one through the grant funding.
"There are times we may be able to provide a car seat, but the main point of the fitting station is to make sure the car seat is safe and secure," she said.
The inspection process takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour for one child safety seat, which includes filling out paperwork to provide up-to-date information on the seat.
"This is something I will definitely tell people who have small children about," Cathy said. "Chances for Youth also has a car seat program, but it is great that people don't have to go to Terre Haute if they don't want to because there is one here."
Judge told The Brazil Times the Brazil City Police Department had participated in the program in the past, but this is the first time she is aware of that the Sheriff's Department has.
"The station is available for those who want to make sure their child is as secure as possible in their car seat," she said. "We started this in April, and want to make sure it keeps going as long as possible."
Parents and caregivers may contact the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535 Ext. 5 to set up an appointment to have their seat and its installation inspected.
Technical support for the station is provided by the Automotive Safety Program at Riley Hospital for Children, and the technicians are certified through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For more information about the Automotive Safety Program, call 1-800-KID-N-CAR, or long on to www.preventinjury.org.