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Over the past few months, Artesians may have become more aware of the regular visits made to the community by Safer New Mexico Now (SNMN).

The organization was founded in 1985 to raise awareness of New Mexico’s disproportionate rate of traffic fatalities, at that time the highest in the nation. SNMN has, over the past three decades, worked on a variety of initiatives to help reduce dangers on the state’s roadways.

One of the most significant focuses on child safety seats.

SNMN has been conducting clinics in Artesia designed to educate parents on the proper use of safety seats, something local certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician Tao Chumbley says is more complicated than many people realize.

“Being a mom of three, I’ve always been into car seat safety,” Chumbley says.

Following the Nov. 15, 2017, accident that claimed the life of local 7-year-old Cy Palmer and critically injured his sister, London Orona, however, Chumbley asked CPS tech Natalie Mann of the Artesia Fire Department – certified with both SNMN and Safe Kids Worldwide – to check her children’s seats.

“There were so many mistakes that I had made, thinking I was doing everything right,” she says. “I think many parents think they’re doing everything right, as well, we just don’t have the widespread knowledge to make sure that our kiddos are safe in the car.

“So I thought, if I’m making these mistakes, many other parents are making them, too, so how can we get the word out there to help parents and caregivers know what kind of car seat to buy their kid, know when they’re old enough or big enough to sit in the vehicle seat without a booster.”

Chumbley says that while many people think the transition out of safety seats depends solely on factor’s such as the child’s age, height or weight, it also depends on the type of vehicle being driven and how the seatbelts therein fit the child.

She also says she sees many parents in a hurry to make that transition too soon.

“More safety is lost with each move from rear-facing to forward-facing, then from harness to booster,” says Chumbley. “So parents should keep their kids in the seat as long as the seat limits allow.

Many parents also make the mistake of thinking they would be able to hold onto their children in the event of an accident.

“They don’t realize that it’s the speed you’re going times the weight of the child – that’s the amount of force being put forth,” Chumbley says. “So even a 10-pound baby in a car just going 30 mph turns into 300 pounds of force. A mom can’t hold onto 300 pounds in a car accident.”

All of that knowledge and more has spurred Chumbley into action as a CPS tech in Artesia, and she is also working through her role as representative of the Frank W. Yates Jr. Family Foundation to aid SNMN in its efforts to continue raising car seat safety awareness.

SNMN is currently accepting donations to help defray the costs of conducting clinics in various communities throughout the state. In addition to educating parents, SNMN also makes car seats available for those who are unable to afford one or for those who discover their seat is inappropriate for their child.

Donations may be made online at shop.safernm.org/donation-form, and as part of her locally-centered efforts, Chumbley has secured a promise of an in-kind donation by the Frank W. Yates Jr. Family Foundation if the community of Artesia is able to raise $2,500.

Right now, approximately $700 has been raised. Artesians donating are asked to enter “Cy Palmer” in the “In Memory of” portion of the online form in order to designate the donation as local.

For more information on the fundraising effort, child seat safety, or to schedule a seat inspection, contact Chumbley at 575-613-8617.