CENTRAL GLENDALE— Retired Officer Alex Delgadillo of the California Highway Patrol meticulously inspected 9-year-old Ariana Castañeda's seatbelt Saturday as she sat still in her parents' car.
The detailed inspection of Ariana's seatbelt revealed potential dangers that could arise if her parents were in an accident. The seatbelt rode too high and close to Ariana's neck, which could choke her during a crash, Delgadillo said.
"It would really do some damage," he said at Saturday's Kiwanis Club of Glendale's Child Seat Checkup Day.
Delgadillo tried convincing Ariana that sitting on a booster seat would be safe for her, and eventually she agreed. Getting older children to sit on booster seats is often challenging because many believe they have outgrown child safety seats, he said.
Ariana's parents, Gabriel and Dolores Castañeda, didn't foresee that she would need a booster seat when they signed up to get their 4-year-old son Gabriel's safety device inspected.
"God forbid we were in an accident, and we didn't have our child's seat checked to be safe," Dolores Castañeda said. "Our children are safe. That's what matters."
Delgadillo outfitted Ariana with her brother's booster seat and gave him a new child car seat.
Ariana's parents were among 35 people who signed up for the checkup.
The Kiwanis Young Children Priority One committee uses grant funding and raises money throughout the year to help buy child car seats and pay for law enforcement personnel, who have trained in checking child car seats, the organization's secretary Vic Legerton said.
Kiwanis also donates child car seats to local hospitals for new low-income parents, he said.
The organization hosts about four child seat checkup yearly, hoping to put a dent in the number of improperly restrained children, he said.
Most parents who attend the checkup have their children in ill-fitted seats, Legerton said. Those parents are given a free car seat before they drive onto city streets.
State law requires children who are at least 6 and weigh 60 pounds be restrained to a child or booster seat, which must be secured to the rear passenger seat.
Booster seats should be used for children who can't use a properly fitted seatbelt and weigh 40 to 80 pounds or are 4 feet 9.
"The kids are a priority," Legerton said.