Car seat initiative keeps children safe

Published 4:00 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

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LAPLACE — Car seat use reduces the risk of children being injured in a crash by an estimated 71% to 82% compared to seat belt use alone, according to the CDC. Yet, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission estimates that 96% of all child restraints are installed incorrectly, reducing effectiveness in the event of a collision.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, Blessed to be a Blessing Founder Eliza Eugene has partnered with Louisiana State Police and LCMC to keep children safe on roadways.

The partnership began when the COVID-19 pandemic struck Louisiana in 2020. Louisiana State Police Lieutenant Colonel Chavez Cammon assisted with the logistics for Blessed to Be a Blessing’s drive-thru Backpack Extravaganza, and the giveaway was just as successful as previous in-person events. During the debriefing after the event, Cammon shared that he observed many vehicles come through with children not restrained in car seats. From there, a three-way conference call was set up with Bridgett Garner, a nurse and director of the LCMC Child Safety Seat Program.

“You’re thinking about what happens when that child that is not properly fastened gets back on the highway. It’s a responsibility you have to think, what more can I do to protect this child?” Eugene said.

Blessed to Be a Blessing, Louisiana State Police and LCMC joined forces to incorporate the Child Safety Seat Program into the 2021 Backpack Extravaganza in St. John Parish. Approximately 80 car seats were distributed to families in need, and certified child seat safety technicians from around the state came to the event to educate parents on proper installation.

The safety seat program returned in 2022 to the Backpack Extravaganza events in both St. John and St. Charles parishes. Cargill graciously sponsors the purchase of car seats in St. John Parish, while United Way sponsored the seats for the St. Charles Parish giveaway.

Eugene has learned child safety seat installation and education is a year-round need in the community.

Recently, Lucila Arzu, a member of the Child Welfare and Attendance Department for the St. John Parish School Board, noticed a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old were unrestrained in a vehicle. Arzu informed the school district administration, and a request to assist the family with obtaining car seats was relayed first to St. John Parish and then to Eugene.

On Wednesday, August 24, Eugene, Arzu and Kate Stegall of Louisiana State Police visited the mother’s home in LaPlace to present her with two car seats.

Both seats were donated by Blessed to Be a Blessing. Stegall demonstrated the proper installation of the seats, offering the mother the knowledge needed to keep her children protected for years to come.

“Even I got trained today,” Eugene said. “As a mother and now a grandmother, I realized I did not know how to properly fasten a car seat. It’s a gamechanger and something everyone should take advantage of.”

Louisiana State Police Troop B offers free car seat installation and education from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 2101 I-10 Service Road in Kenner. No appointments are necessary.

“We will teach the parent or caregiver how to install the seat and put the child in the seat. It also teaches them about when to transition to the next level of child seating in terms of rear facing, forward facing and booster,” Stegall said. “At that location, we have certified car seat installation technicians. Some are in law enforcement, and some are nurses from University Medical Center. We actually had one here this week from Ochsner Baptist, which is a huge delivery hospital.”

According to Stegall, a lot of people don’t realize that Louisiana law requires a child to remain rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old, regardless of the child’s height or weight.

“That was a change in the law about four or five years ago, and a lot of people are not up to date with that,” she said.

Stegall also wants families to understand that the car seat is a system, and the installation must meet all of the standards of the vehicle and the car seat manufacturer.

“If any part of that system is not functioning properly, it’s not working to its full capacity, and it’s not keeping the child safe. The only way is to have it checked out by a certified technician,” Stegall said. “You don’t necessarily have to come here just to have your seat installed. You can swing by and make sure that your seat is installed properly.”

According to Eugene, Blessed to Be a Blessing currently has several requests for car seats pending.

If anyone is interested in donating to Blessed to Be a Blessing to go toward the purchase of more car seats for families in need in the community, please contact Eugene at or call 504-451-4712.