Police officer works to keep kids safe in vehicles

LAKE STEVENS — When David Carter sees something wrong, he tries to also see the bigger picture.

He’s past the place in his career where citations and arrests seem to matter most. As a Lake Stevens police school resource officer, he wants to fix problems and help people learn to stay safe, he said.

Carter recently heard about a problem at a local day care. A reliable source who works in education told him the day care was transporting young children without proper safety seats. The source had seen children bouncing around while the vehicle was driving down the road.

Carter knew he could visit that particular day care, but that wasn’t the only answer. It was a secondhand report, so his enforcement options were limited. Plus, he figured that if one local daycare had a problem, others could, too.

So he made a spreadsheet of all the day cares in town. He called them and asked if he could visit with literature about child-safety seats. He worked with Lake Stevens fire-safety public educator Jennye Cooper and Safe Kids Snohomish County. They gave out posters and talked to owners and managers. They left materials for parents, too.

“It was a great response, every facility that we went to,” Carter said.

Carter’s also planning to become a certified child-safety-seat technician. In his years on the road, both here and in Arizona, the biggest concerns he’s seen are too-young children in the front seat and kids who are taken out of booster seats too soon.

Along with Cooper and fellow school resource officer Jim Barnes, Carter plans to visit local schools later this month with a similar message. They want to talk to parents and provide support.

Kids’ bodies can’t handle the physical forces of a car accident the same way as adults, he said. That’s why proper safety seating is paramount.

“I take it very seriously,” he said.

Carter’s work is part of several new crime-prevention efforts underway in Lake Stevens, interim police Cmdr. Dennis Taylor said.

“We are very proud of officer Carter and his accomplishments,” Taylor said. “Officer Carter’s use of discretion and imagination is in keeping with our philosophy of using public education as our primary means of enforcement.”

Carter’s also spoken to countless neighborhood groups about crime-prevention techniques involving car prowls, car thefts and burglaries.

He’s worked with Everett crime prevention officer Eddie Golden, who was part of the, “Project Impact” team that designed award-winning software to generate safety tipsheets that are customizable by community.

Carter also warns folks to be wary of used car seats, including those that come from secondhand stores or as hand-me-downs. Most car seats have an expiration date, often six years after manufacturing, he said. People can’t tell just from looking at older seats if they are too worn or have sustained damage.

“The plastics start to break down,” he said. “The fibers in the fabric of the harness start to break down.”

Parents and caregivers also need to include the child’s age and weight when following guidelines, he said. The laws and recommendations have changed in recent years.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Car-seat safety classes are offered by many local police and fire departments and at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Appointments are free. Group presentations are available.

More info: 425-304-6000, or contact your local police or fire station.

Lake Stevens police offer crime-prevention tipsheets at the city’s website, www.ci.lake-stevens.wa.us.

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