By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children 3 to 14 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Through her business BuckleUpKids.net, Winsted native Renda Baird is doing her part to improve child passenger safety by teaching drivers the safest, most secure way to transport young passengers.
Baird, a 1986 Lester Prairie graduate, is a certified child safety seat expert who is listed on the state website as a contact for child car seat inspections.
“It really is a passion of mine and something I really believe in and care about,” Baird said about the use of child safety seats in all vehicles. “There is no excuse for a child not being buckled in correctly,”
“Anyone can call me at anytime,” Baird said. “I come to people’s homes to do the inspection. They can check out my website and there are lots of resources online that are free and available to verify your child is buckled in correctly.”
Most of the car seat inspections done by Baird are for new parents who want to make sure their newborn’s safety seat is installed correctly.
“I don’t advertise. Mostly, I partner with people that schedule me. I work with Amma Maternity in Edina. They teach prenatal classes and I have partnered with them and do all of their car seat inspections,” Baird said.
Baird also recommends that parents with older children seek advice if they are in doubt about the proper way to buckle up a child using a booster seat.
She recently appeared on a Fox 9 News segment giving advice on using child booster seats, which are required by Minnesota state law for any child who is under the age of 8 or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall.
“I have found that older kids should have their seat belts looked at because many of them put the seat belts on themselves,” Baird said. “It’s really important to have the lap belt in the right place and to keep their shoulder strap on in the right place.”
According to Baird, the child’s booster seat should elevate them enough so the lap belt is not across their stomach, which can cause internal injuries in an accident.
Baird has been a firefighter for 11 years. Her first five years as a firefighter were with the Watertown Fire Department and then she was a firefighter for St. Louis Park. It was through St. Louis Park that she got her training to be a certified child safety seat inspector.
“In order to maintain my certification, I have to install so many car seats per year and have them checked out by a supervisor,” she said.
Baird, who is the daughter of Jim and Ruth Baird of Winsted, is not only able to use her car seat expertise on her customers, but she has a 2-year-old son, Lincoln, who gets buckled in on a regular basis. She also has 21 nieces and nephews, and she isn’t afraid to give her siblings advice on how to use a car seat correctly whenever needed.
Child safety seats all have to pass the same standards, so Baird doesn’t recommend a specific brand, but believes that any car seat is better than not having one at all.
“I had a lady that called me last week who was driving around with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old who were not in car seats,” Baird said. “I would rather have them in a car seat that has expired than not at all. I found two car seats and took them to her. People are starting to get my name. I just do what I can do,” Baird said.
To have a child car seat inspection at your home, contact Baird at (612) 508-9396, or e-mail her at Renda@buckleupkids.net. There is an inspection fee of $35. To see her website, click here.
Adults need to use their seat belt properly, too. Taking off the shoulder strap is a big mistake, Baird said.
“And the big thing I always tell people now the most dangerous thing in a vehicle is an unbuckled passenger or a distracted driver,” Baird said. “Everyone is on their phone and it’s not just about driving and texting. It’s driving and ipod, iPad, I-not-paying-attention.”
NHTSA child car safety seat requirements
• A child under the age of 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
• Keep the child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits the seat’s height and weight requirements.
• Keep the child in a booster seat until he is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. A seat belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not across the neck or face.
• All children under 13 should ride in the back seat.
Car seat laws
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria.
Booster seats are required in 47 states and the District of Columbia. The only states lacking booster seat laws are Arizona, Florida and South Dakota.