For the members of Girl Scout Troop 913, one statistic is particularly alarming. As Arianna Wright and Nicole Brinson, both eighth graders at Smart’s Mill Middle School in Leesburg, set out to determine what the basis for the Silver Award project would be, they were shocked to learn the rate at which car seat inspections done in Loudoun County have declined.
With only the Leesburg Police Department offering the inspections – to Leesburg residents only – the inspections have not nearly kept pace with the county’s rapid growth in the last decade. As a result, many local parents are being referred to police departments and public safety agencies in other jurisdictions – including Fairfax and Prince William counties and as far west as Berryville. The girls first learned about this when the Rotary Club of Ashburn held a car seat inspection in the fall. The participation was overwhelming.
“We had to start cutting the line off about halfway through,” Arianna recalled.
Each car seat inspection takes about 30 to 45 minutes, and two certified inspectors must participate in each inspection – one to view the seat being installed, and one to do the actual installation. To be certified as a car seat inspector, one must undergo a four-day intensive training. This commitment alone has led many public safety agencies to shy away from offering the inspections, not to mention the need to have a certain amount of personnel on hand.
But since the girls first began work on their Silver Award project – their initiative is called “Saving Loudoun’s Littles” — there is much to be hopeful about. Sheriff Michael Chapman and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office have committed to train 10 officers over the summer months and several citizen volunteers have also stepped up to be trained.
Arianna and Nicole have raised almost $9,000 to commit towards training new car seat inspectors. The two are also responsible for setting up a series of car seat inspection events. The first event was held this March 11 in the Leesburg Costco parking lot and a total of 46 car seat inspections were conducted. The next event is planned for April 15 from 1-3 p.m. at Great Beginnings in Chantilly, located at 13920 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway. At that event, five new Loudoun County inspectors will be completing their four-day training.
The group also expects regular events each month thereafter as the program continues to expand across the County. For the most current listings of all upcoming events, check the group’s Facebook page at Saving Loudoun’s Littles One Car Seat at a Time. The initiative now has commitments from 25 volunteers who will be trained as National Child Passenger Safety Technicians over the next four months.
The girls are also planning to enter their initiative into the Step Up Loudoun competition sponsored by Loudoun Youth. And, for Arianna and Nicole, it has reaffirmed two of their passions. Arianna is possibly interested in a medical career and Nicole loves working with kids and enjoys spending her time babysitting. The two will take turns on Friday helping out at the event, they say.
Daryl Collette is one of the sponsors behind the girls’ project and is himself going to be trained as a car seat inspector. The owner of Automotive Quality Solutions in Ashburn, said making sure young children riding in cars are safe was “a natural tie in for me.” He said becoming certified as a car seat inspector was not a business move, but just something he thought was “the right thing to do.”
For more information on the initiative visit the “Saving Loudoun’s Littles – One Carseat at a Time” Facebook page.