NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—More than 200 backpacks and 50 carseats were given away for free as part of back-to-back events held at the New Brunswick HUB Teen Center on Joyce Kilmer Avenue on August 29.
The backpacks went quickly, but more than 50 young and soon-to-be parents hung around the center, waiting to pick up baby car seats and learn the proper way to use them.
Though the car-seat giveaway has been an annual tradition for the past decade, it has special significance this year because of new state regulations requiring toddlers under age 2 and 30 lbs. to remain in rear-facing car seats.
Under the new law, which took effect on September 1, older kids have to be supported with booster seats until they are either age 8 or 57 inches tall as well.
The new legislation was signed by Gov. Chris Christie in May and violators will be fined $50 to $75 if they are caught by police with children in the wrong car seat or sitting in no booster seat.
After waiting inside the Teen Center for roughly an hour, the parents and their children walked over to the back of the building for a demonstration on how to place a child inside a car seat.
Anna “Cuqui” Rivera, the Administrative Chair of the Integrated Justice Alliance and representative of the Puerto Rican Action Board, led the demonstration.
“Today we were actually doing large demonstrations which are kind not what we are used to,” said Rivera. “You can get the headlines but you can’t get your hands on it and feel it as you should as a parent, because you are learning a lot of major things that’s going to help you and your baby stay safe.”
Rivera’s live lecture utilized three dolls, given the names Arturo, Trent, and Beatriz by the kids at the event, to showcase how to properly place a child in the car seat.
She also brought in some of the kids who were attending the event with their parents to show the adults how to place them in the booster seat.
Some of the kids were excited to be part of the demonstration. Others really wanted to go home.
The Car Seat Safety Class is an education program created by the Anshe Emeth Community Development Corporation (AECDC), which is based out of the city’s largest Jewish temple.
The AECDC worked in conjunction with the State Farm Insurance Company to provide teachings about the importance of car seats for infants to low-income families.
“We hope that the parents learn that they need to know that they need to keep their child safe,” said Norka Torres, the Director of the AECDC.
“If your child is not in a car seat, and you’re in a car accident you could lose your children. They can get injured if their seat belt is not put on correctly.”
Torres and Rivera were invited by New Brunswick Public Schools and Walter Virgil, a Recreation Program Specialist at the Teen Center, to do a live workshop to show the parents how to place a car seat in a vehicle as opposed of being read the instructions at the Memorial Temple.
“We’ve been doing the baby program for over ten years,” said Torres, “and we are pretty blessed that we continue to receive funding.”
Rivera, a mother of six children, believes it is important that parents understand the importance of child safety when driving a motor vehicle; especially with the new laws being passed to ensure that parents follow the rules in regards to child safety in a car.
“I think this is the only place where a parent can be educated this way,” Rivera said.