La Crosse County Health Department provides free car seats for families in need

LA CROSSE, Wi. (WEAU)-- Families who qualify for WIC, BadgerCare, or reduced lunches are all eligible to receive a free car seat from the La Crosse County Health Department.

The health department is able to offer the program through a grant from the Department of Transportation.

"It is very important because I don't know anywhere else in the community that these parents, low-income parents, could get a car seat from," said Maichor Lee, the health educator for the La Crosse County Health Department.

In addition to the free car seats, the health department also offers sessions to ensure a car seat is properly installed.

"We have to help parents take [the seat] out of the box and... we do help them and teach them how to put it in [the car] correctly," Lee said.

The health department estimates it's done more than 100 car seat check sessions each year.

Health officials say seven out of every ten car seats they see are installed incorrectly.

"The state law of Wisconsin says a child needs to be in a car seat until they are at least eight years old, 80 pounds, or 57 inches tall," Lee said. "A lot of 8-year-olds are not 57 inches tall or are not even 80 pounds."

The health department suggests kids who do not meet the weight or height limit remain in a booster, even after eight.

There are several key safety tips for car seats that the department offers as well.

"Make sure it fits nice and tight in the car seat," Lee said. "Make sure that it doesn't move more than one-inch from side to side or back and forth. And around this time of the year, when it's so cold, we don't recommend kids to be in a thick coat."

From April to September, the health department will offer free car seat clinics on the first and second Thursday of each month from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at various locations on a first come, first served basis.

Those who don't qualify for a free seat and can't make it to one of the free clinics, can still schedule a separate appointment with the health department for a $25 fee.