A Tracy auto dealership’s donation is helping keep a free child safety seat program rolling along.
Fire department Capt. Jim Haskell, who founded the Child Automotive Restraint Education and Safety program 13 years ago, explained that the program had run out of funds in October and was down to its last two car seats. On Friday, it received a contribution of $5,000 from Premier Automotive of Tracy, 3460 Naglee Road.
C.A.R.E.S., which gives new child safety seats to low-income families, is not funded by the department’s budget. It depends on grants and donations to buy the seats.
During free inspection events, Haskell and three other certified car seat technicians in the fire department check families’ child safety seats to make sure they are properly installed, the right size for each child, and not broken or worn. Children younger than 8 years old and shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches must ride in the back seat in an appropriate car seat or booster seat, according to state law.
“We provide car seats from birth to booster seats,” Haskell said. “Along with each new seat, we provide education on how to use it properly. We see a lot of large babies that have outgrown infant carriers, or car seats that are not safe for use after (they are) 6 years old.”
A $26,500 grant from the California Department of Traffic Safety, which ran out in October, provided supplies, staffing for events and 185 child safety seats that were given to families at nine local events in 2013. C.A.R.E.S. had only two seats left before the donation from the dealership.
Debby Pappas, who owns Premier Automotive with her husband, Tony, said she became aware of C.A.R.E.S. during a public safety event at the dealership in May. When she learned that the funds to buy new seats had been exhausted, she and her husband decided to donate to the program.
“We thought this was worthwhile,” Pappas said. “Anything that involves children, that’s where we want to get involved.”
She added that she hoped to help C.A.R.E.S. again in the future.
“We want to keep this program going, because it is important to the community and the children,” Pappas said. “We need to keep them safe.”
Haskell said that the $5,000 donation would buy about 75 new child safety seats. Seats cost $25 to $150 each, depending on the type and size.
Haskell said that fire department crews have seen children hurt or thrown from vehicles in crashes because they were improperly restrained or were placed in car seats that were broken, worn out or the wrong size for them. Misused seat belts can cause severe facial lacerations and crushed tracheas, he said.
C.A.R.E.S. is expected to be at the Sutter Tracy Community Hospital health fair on Sept. 27.
C.A.R.E.S. is still looking for regular funding and is investigating new grants and donation sources, Haskell said. Anyone wanting to donate to C.A.R.E.S. can call the fire department administration at 831-6700.
• Contact Glenn Moore at email@example.com or 830-4252.