Free event to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Loveland Police and Courts Building
By Dana Rieck
Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
LOVELAND — Loveland Police Department officials are partnering with Alexa’s Hugs to offer free car seat inspections from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Loveland Police and Courts Building, 810 E. 10th St.
Tad Johnson and his wife Jona Johnson started the organization in honor of his 19-year-old daughter, Alexa Johnson, who died in a rollover accident on Feb. 10, 2013 near Longmont.
Jona said people interested in having their car seat inspected should make appointments by calling 619-8201 or simply stopping by the police department Saturday — she added anyone without an appointment will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Our goal for this event is that every child in Loveland is safely riding in the restraint that is appropriate for their age, weight and their development,” she wrote in an email.
The organization will also have new car seats available Saturday to those who are need of one. Tad and Jona are asking for a $30 donation to Alexa’s Hugs in exchange for one of the car seats, which ranges in value from $90 to $120.
The various seats available for people Saturday can accommodate children weighing between five and 110 pounds.
“It’s the difference between serious bodily injury and death,” Tad said. “What we are talking about is the difference between the child staying in the seat in the vehicle — which is the safest place to be if there’s a crash, to remain in the seat properly restrained.”
He said about 75 percent of car seats on the road are installed incorrectly and approximately 90 percent of children riding in car seats are fitted incorrectly. The Johnsons said according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children age 15 years old and younger in the United States.
“Our goal is to educate as many parents and care providers as possible and practice with them so they know how — through demonstration— to get these seats installed correctly and kids fitted correctly,” Tad said. “We want them at the point where they can go and help the next person learn how to correctly install and fit a car seat.”
Tad added that while the issue is a major safety concern, all it takes is 20 minutes for parents and care providers to be educated and aware. Alexa’s Hugs has distributed more than 100 car seats this year and Tad’s goal is to distribute a total of 200 car seats in 2016.
He added that Colorado does not have a primary seat belt law, meaning that officers cannot ticket a driver or passenger solely for not wearing a seat belt — Tad said the state loses out on anywhere from $12 to $15 million in federal funding because of this.
Loveland police Cpt. Tim Brown said the department does not currently have car seat inspectors on staff, which is something he anticipates changing soon.
This is the first time the Loveland Police Department has partnered with Alexa’s Hugs, however.
“Unfortunately there are far too many tragic incidents of children in seats that were improperly installed or fitted for the child,” Brown said. “There really is a need to grow the seats as the child grows, the way they are installed really changes with the size of the child.”
Brown will be present during the four-hour car seat check Saturday morning.
“We are talking about the difference between life and death — and it’s really only seconds and inches,” Tad said.