Operation Thunder leads to crackdown on child safety

Want to know if your seat is safe?

Deputies will be at the Target shopping center in Augusta from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Friday giving free safety seat inspections.

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, June 5, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Operation Thunder just wrapped up, and law enforcement agencies are taking a hard look at the results. One disturbing trend, according to deputies, was the number of parents cited for not having proper child safety seats.

Those statistics shocked Keri Engleman, who is a new mom.

Engleman says her daughter is her whole world.

"She's everything to me. This is the miracle child. I don't know what I would do without her."

She says that's why safety is always first with her daughter, especially in the car.

"The littlest accident, if they're not the safest seats or they're not installed properly, it could kill your child easily," she said.

But, unfortunately, many kids in Richmond County aren't being buckled in safe and sound like little Danielle.

"We had about 450 child safety seat violations, and that actually means they didn't have them in a safety seat at all or they had the seat in the car and weren't using it," said Lt. Lewis Blanchard.

Those 450 tickets were given out in just a couple of months during Operation Thunder.

"We determined that was a major problem. It actually topped DUIs," Blanchard said.

That is why a team from UGA is in town this week to train officers how to spot safety seats and buckles that aren't being used correctly.

Andrew Turnage, the child passenger safety coordinator with the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute, says the reason they do this is simple: "The goal here is really not citations with law enforcement. It's saving lives."

Deputies are getting hands-on training on everything from detecting faulty seat belts to helping parents figure out the right size car seats.

"You hear a lot of people say well, it's almost perfect, but that one little detail can end up with a serious injury or a fatality for any child," Turnage said.

After this week's training, deputies will be able to teach the community how to use safety seats the right way in order to keep children like Danielle safe and sound.

On Friday, deputies will be at the fire station near Iris and Central Roads in Augusta from 8:30 to 11 a.m. giving free safety seat inspections. It doesn't cost a thing, and it could end up saving a life.

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