AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County EMS unveils a new mobile classroom Wednesday that will allow technicians to take car seat training to the doorstep of families across central Texas.
The Buckle Up for Life Safety Lab, funded through a $30,000 grant from Toyota and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, launches at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center on Rundberg Lane.
The new trailer will allow ATCEMS to pinpoint training to individual neighborhoods, apartment complexes, mobile home parks and other spots they’re not able to reach now.
The old method to distribute free car seats and educate parents about how to use them is to set up in a parking lot and conduct one-on-one training with people who stop by in their own cars.
That’s limited, said ATCEMS Capt. Randy Chhabra, by the number of technicians the agency has available. There are 200-300 technicians in the central Texas area, he said.
“We know our model works, we know it’s effective,” Chhabra said. “It’s just not scalable.”
It also limits the people who benefit to those who have access to a car that day. If a parent doesn’t own a car, or doesn’t have access to the family’s car that day, that parent can’t get the training.
The new method allows everyone to learn proper safety across the nine counties the agency serves.
ATCEMS will also be able to target its education to specific areas where there’s a greater need, “right down not just to a zip code, but to a neighborhood or even maybe an apartment complex or mobile home park,” Chhabra said.
The agency used ticket and crash data to identify areas of central Texas with lower rates of car seat compliance, including southeast Travis County and parts of north central Austin. Technicians will now be able to target those areas specifically.
Chhabra said there a number of reasons for lower compliance around the city, including refugee populations who might be unfamiliar with regulations and low-income families who can’t afford a car seat or are using an unsafe hand-me-down.
In addition to the training, the agency will continue to give out free car seats and booster seats using different grant funding.
ATCEMS gives out about 2,200 seats each year. That number will likely remain the same with the new trailer, but the agency will be able to get more of the seats to people who need them the most.