TWO-YEAR-OLD Harper wishes her mom

Carseat advocate leaving legacy in Comox Valley

More than 98.8 per cent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly

More than 98.8 per cent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly.

At least that’s the statistic observed by Jen Shapka, a technician/instructor with the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada. Shapka co-founded Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs almost two years ago after moving to Vancouver Island with a military spouse.

“I’d recently been certified as a car seat technician in Ontario and saw the immediate difference it could make to a child’s safety,” said Shapka. “When I arrived in the Comox Valley, I hunted around and couldn’t find any organizations making a real difference for kids in vehicles so I found some like-minded women on the Island and Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs was born.”

As the great demand for car seat help grew, traffic picked up quickly on the Facebook page the women started, and the resulting website they developed. Momentum picked up.

Jen became an Instructor with the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC) and the Island now boasts 52 trained and certified car seat technicians. Some, like the busy techs who volunteer at free clinics organized up and down Vancouver Island, do it because it’s a passion. Others help parents and families through their work places.

Every single one has made a difference reducing the primary accidental cause of death of children in Canada.

Shapka herself has personally checked 437 car seats on Vancouver Island in her two years posted here, and only five of them didn’t require correction of misuse.

“Studies indicate that children travelling in an appropriate, properly used restraint can reduce the likelihood of death by 70 per cent and injury by 67 per cent,” says Shapka. “There’s really no reason not to ensure your kids are riding safely.”

Indeed, Stats Canada says that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14. In 2010 61 children under the age of 14 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, 501 were seriously injured, and 9,342 others suffered minor to moderate injuries.

Shapka is once again preparing to pack up and move her family across the country this summer — her seventh move in 11 years.

She’s extremely proud of the fantastic network of technicians she’s helped to train and mentor, including another instructor who will continue to teach and certify new technicians. There is also a loyal following of hundreds, if not thousands of parents who reach out and ask for the help they were previously unable to find before Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians came to be.

“There is a troubling trend of bad advice out there,” Shapka says. “I’ve personally corrected errors made by technicians with outdated or incomplete information. We formed Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians to buck that trend and be a reliable source of information.”

Technicians certified by CPSAC receive a national certification and ongoing recertification. They remain current on new laws, recalls, and other safety concerns.

Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs also maintain an active communication amongst each other and reach out for assistance from other techs when needed.

Experienced, certified, and up-to-date help can be found online at www.vicarseattechs.com, on Facebook at VICarSeatTechs, and in person in many communities up and down Vancouver Island.

— Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs

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