You know your child’s old car seat that’s been sitting in your garage collecting dust because – quite frankly – you don’t know what to do with it? Just tossing it in a dumpster seems wasteful. Trying to sell it isn’t the answer either since both buying and selling secondhand seats is considered an unethical no-no, as child safety experts will tell you, because it’s impossible to know the history of the seat and whether it’s been in a crash.
Tucson Medical Center is teaming up with the University of Arizona’s Enactus Club to give those seats a purpose. You’re invited to bring any unwanted or expired seats to TMC.
That seat could make a life or death difference for a child who would otherwise ride unrestrained in Mexico. It’s not uncommon to see a mother holding an infant on her lap in a vehicle, or see unrestrained kids bouncing around the back seat south of the border. In the Mexican state of Sonora, for example, an estimated 13 percent of babies and small children use car seats. In Arizona, that number is closer to 90 percent.
The Arizona Department of Health Services believes so few parents use car seats in Mexico because they simply can’t afford one, and car seats are typically more expensive. This new program has the potential to make a big difference by putting these seats directly in the hands of the families who need them most.
So – how come an expired car seat that shouldn’t be used in the United States is ok for a child in Mexico?
Because it’s better than nothing.
The Mexican government recently passed a federal law mandating the use of car seats in vehicles with passengers under 5 years old. But oftentimes even that is not enough to get parents to actually buckle up their kids. Persuading parents to use a car seat, for example, is a tall task – especially if the family never used a restraint with other children. Jessica Mitchell, TMC’s community outreach specialist hopes this program helps change that. “Our hope is that if these families have access to a free car seat, there is a better chance of that child riding restrained than if we’re asking the families to go out a buy a new seat,” she explained.
Next spring, TMC is hosting an event with the UA Enactus Club where certified child passenger safety experts will meticulously inspect every seat that’s been collected. Restraints that are in good shape, not missing any parts, and are less than 10 years old, according to the manufacture date, will be sent to Mexico as part of the Arizona Department of Health Services Safe Ride Home initiative. The manufacture date is on every car seat, likely on a sticker, or imprinted on the plastic. Sometimes it can be tricky to find. If an expiration date for the seat is not listed, simply add six years to the manufacture date to figure out when that seat expires.
All other seats that don’t meet these standards will be stripped down and taken apart. “The fabric will likely be offered to a charity that can put it to good use. The plastic and metal will be recycled,” said Mitchell. KC Seitz, vice president of finance for the UA Enactus Club, said their biggest task now is to get the word out to parents, grandparents, pediatrician offices, schools and daycares about the program. “We have collected about two dozen seats so far. Our goal is to have at least 100 seats collected by the recycling event,” he said. “The UA Enactus Club’s main goals are to encourage entrepreneur projects which are to be sustainable and to help out in the community, and we are thrilled to help execute this program for the Tucson community.”
WHAT TO KNOW:
▪ You can drop off any used, expired or unwanted car seats including infant seats, convertible seats and booster seats. Don’t worry about the condition or cleanliness of the seat!
▪ You can drop seats off anytime during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.
▪ Please call Jessica Mitchell at 324-4110 to schedule a drop off.
*Special thanks to KC Seitz and his parents Duane and Stefanie Seitz with Snack Attack Vending who have generously donated warehouse space to store these seats!