National studies found seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained in vehicles, either in seats installed wrong, in the wrong type of seat or not strapped in at all.

Easton police officer Darren Mangott was getting ready to install a new child safety seat in a Canton woman’s car when he checked out the old one still in the back seat.


It was installed wrong.


“The baby is 1 year old now and her seat had been in wrong all that time,” Mangott said. “The mother was surprised.”


That case is not unique, say law enforcement officials who monitor child car seats.


“Most of the seats we see are installed wrong,” said Brockton Lt. Donald Mills, who oversees the child safety-seat program for the Police Department.


National studies found seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained in vehicles, either in seats installed wrong, in the wrong type of seat or not strapped in at all.


That is a focus of the investigation into the death of a 5- month-old Brockton girl who was killed on a rain-slick Attleboro highway last weekend.


State police said the baby was in a car seat when she was thrown from the vehicle driven by her mother in the crash on Interstate 95, and they are now trying to figure out how or why the seat dislodged. State police Lt. David Wilson said the investigation into the crash has not been completed.


Since the crash, some police departments, such as in Easton, have noticed that more parents are calling to see if an officer can check to make sure the car seats in their vehicles are installed correctly.


“None are saying that (fatal accident) is the reason, but it very possibly could be,” Mangott said.


Brockton Police Capt. Wayne Sargo, who oversaw the city’s child safety seat program for nearly nine years, said installing the seats properly can be tough for parents.


“I’ve had engineers come to me and say, ‘I’m an engineer and I can’t figure it out,’” Sargo said. “It can be really tough. Every car is different, every car seat is different.”


Car-seat installation technicians – there’s at least one on many police departments – undergo 40 hours of training to learn how to install the different types of car seats properly.


“There are a lot of variables,” Sargo said.


In Brockton, police installed 790 child car seats between 2005 and 2009 – and the requests keep increasing, Mills said.


“Parents want to make sure it is done right,” he said.


The seats – properly installed – save lives, experts say.


Many local police departments set aside a night for appointments each week to check the child car seats or install new ones.


To find a nearby technician, call the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's CPS hotline at 1-877-392-5956 or TTY 617-725-0261.


Car seat installations: Where to get help


Call your local police department. Many set aside a night for appointments each week to check child car seats or install new ones.


For help finding a nearby police technician, call  the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's CPS hotline at 1-877-392-5956 or TTY 617-725-0261.


Parents can also check  the Web site for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm.


For additional statewide information or assistance, call the Massachusetts State Police Child Passenger Safety Hotline at 508-988-7090.


Child car-seat safety 


- About 244 children’s lives were saved in 2008 by restraint use.


- Of that number, 219 were in child safety seats and 25 in adult seat belts.


Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Enterprise writer Maureen Boyle can be reached at mboyle@enterprisenews.com.