In an effort to protect children and raise awareness among parents, emergency agencies have teamed up with Children's Hospital for a child safety technician course.
The four-day, 32-hour National Highway Traffic Safety Administration course certifies each participant to correctly install child safety seats in any car.
"It's unbelievable how much stuff we didn't know," said class member Kris Dodd, a Farmers Insurance agent.
Some motivation for the class came from the Colorado's Child Restraint Law, which will go into effect Aug. 1, said Jacqui Campbell, the Public Education Coordinator for the Steamboat Springs Fire/Rescue. Campbell coordinated the class.
According to the new law, infants must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 1 year old and 20 pounds.
Children between 1 and 4 years old who weigh 20 to 40 pounds must be restrained in a forward-facing car seat. Children heavier than 40 pounds who are younger than 6 must continue to ride in a child restraint seat, such as a booster seat, unless they are 55 inches or taller. All other children must be restrained in standard seat belts.
Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Rich Brown said that most parents don't know how to properly secure children in their cars.
"The best child seat is appropriate for the child in terms of their size, age and weight, that fits them well and fits the car well," Brown said. Nationally, child seats are used incorrectly about 80 percent of the time, Brown said.
But the state average is even worse. Coloradans misuse their car seats 95 percent of the time, Campbell said.
Problems often occur because parents neglect instructions. Campbell points out that many parents choose to skip reading the manufacturer's instructions and simply install the car seat as they see fit.
"We need to get more education now," Campbell said. Because there are many different models of child seats, and many different cars, the possibility for error is huge, she said.
The class instructors were from Children's Hospital, St. Anthony Central Hospital and the Laramie, Wyo., Fire Department.
The class, which is also taught throughout the Denver metro area, is sponsored by Children's Hospital.
The class will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. today in the Wal-Mart parking lot, 1805 Central Park Drive. Parents are invited to come with their child safety seats to receive hands-on installation training.
Dodd said important things to remember when installing and using child safety seats are keeping large, unnecessary objects out of the car, making sure there is no slack in safety belts, and adapting the seat for each child and car.
Dodd also said every child seat that has been in an accident needs to be replaced, even if it doesn't appear damaged. Some insurance agencies will replace child seats that have been in accidents, she said.
Fifteen people attended the course, which began Monday in Colorado Mountain College's Bristol Hall. The students all were members of the Steamboat Springs police or fire departments, except Dodd, who is an insurance agent.
Dodd said the course was useful, and hopes parents will gain from their knowledge.
"If we could save one kid, why not," she said.