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  Guest Editorial

Babies on Board? Help Keep Them Safe!

Posted 2/11/2010
By John Francis Jr., AAM

How one Pennsylvania shop is playing a key role
in keeping youngsters safe while riding in vehicles.

About a year ago we started installing child safety seats. I'm a grandfather now, and believe me, things have really changed from when I put my kids in their child safety seats. After a nudge from my coach, Jim Piraino, AAM, with Elite, and talking with my son, we did some research. My eyes opened really wide. Seven out of 10 kids in child safety seats are not properly buckled in. Wow! What an astounding statistic.

I went to a couple of Web sites to get the lowdown. My son, coach and I talked a lot about it and we jumped in. I also looked to see who in our area was doing this service. Just a few car dealers and no independent shops in the whole state.

We decided this would be a great way to give back to the community, and people would have an opportunity to see our shop. It would bring in new business.

To become qualified, my son went to school for 32 hours of training. They had a test after each day of class.

He told me what he had learned, and I had no idea how important proper seat belt installation is and what it takes to make sure the child is safe.

Once we were certified, our company info went up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.dot.gov) and www.seatcheck.org Web sites, and phone calls started coming in. We even had one mom call from the hospital saying she could not find anyone to install the seat, so we took care of it that day!

New parents are told a child seat must be installed by a certified installer before a newborn goes home for the first time. We stress the importance of this.

We did an event at the shop last September to coincide with Child Passenger Safety Month. We had the police here with their Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) display and had fun and cooked hot dogs.

Our child seat belt installation service is by appointment only and we do one per day, in the afternoon.

Parents are so thankful for our help. As part of our service, we check for recalls and expired seats. It has been a great experience for us as well as for parents. We do not try and sell our shop - it is all about the child and installing the seat properly. We do send a thank-you note as a follow-up, and more and more parents are now coming in for service, which is pretty cool.

This service has done a lot to build community support for our shop. It gets new people in your door, and most of all you are making sure the seat you install is done correctly and the child is safe.

I challenge you as ASA members to consider offering this service. It will definitely enhance your image in the community. It will bring you new business. And, you will feel good about making a difference.

John Francis John Francis Jr. is owner of Francis Automotive Service in West Chester, Pa. He may be reached at francisauto@comcast.net. An Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM), he is the former chairman of the Automotive Management Institute's (AMI) board of trustees.

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