The 38th annual Optimist and Washington Police Department Bicycle Safety Rodeo and Registration will feature two new safety programs for families, including a car seat check and information on the national Hug-A-Tree program.
The event is set for Saturday, May 18, with registration at 9:30 a.m. and the rodeo at 10:00 a.m. The rodeo is designed for children ages 5 to 13.
Mercy/Safekids and the Washington Police Department will sponsor the car seat safety check. Although the event was offered last year, participation in the rodeo is still relatively new.
Certified car seat technicians will perform free checks from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
“About four out of five car seats are not properly installed,” said Nicki Harriman, RN and child passenger safety technician and community outreach educator for the maternal childcare department, Mercy Hospital.
With all the different vehicles and anchor systems, Harriman said it’s easy to get confused when installing a car seat.
Harriman said she commonly sees people misuse a vehicle’s latch system or not lock down the seat belt.
She also has seen car seats at the improper level. A leveling system is in every rear-facing car seat to make sure infants are properly reclined.
Any improper use of a car seat, even unintentional, can cause problems for children whether the car is in an accident or not, Harriman said.
“There are a lot of steps, and that’s why it’s confusing,” she said.
The inspectors will check expiration dates, and said people should know the history of the car seat, as well as the recommendations on car seats, such as when to turn around a rear-facing seat and how long kids need to remain in booster seats.
Those who are unable to attend the bicycle safety rodeo may call Mercy to schedule a safety check, 636-239-8645.
Harriman encourages people to have their seat checked even if they think it’s properly installed.
Members of the Canine Search and Rescue Association will be at the rodeo to teach children and adults the importance of being prepared when they go into the woods.
Glenda Eichmeyer, a Marthasville resident who has a certified search and rescue dog, will be at the event to help teach children what to do if they get lost in the woods.
The Hug-A-Tree program is a national program through the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR).
Simple tips, such as carrying a trash bag and a whistle, and using the buddy system, will be encouraged. A whistle can help alert people where a lost person is and a trash bag can help keep the body temperature higher if a person is lost through the night. The big lesson is that if children do become lost, they should stay in one place and hug a tree so they’re easier to find.
Depending on room, Eichmeyer said she may show people how her mixed-breed dog finds people. Her dog alerts, or stands and barks at the missing person. Other dogs find the person and run back to their handler to alert them. Some use a combination of both, Eichmeyer said.
“We want the kids to know what to do and not get scared. We want them to understand how to take care of themselves so we can find them faster,” Eichmeyer said.
During the rodeo, children will have the opportunity to participate in skills contests and other activities.