Using Child Safety Seats While Transporting Children
Over the past few months, there have been concerns raised about the transportation of infants and toddlers found along the border and in ranches further in the interior. For example:
- A supervisor told an agent that child safety seats are supposed to be used only when transporting children from station to station, not from a ranch or the border to a station;
- When an agent told a supervisor that he did not have a child safety seat in his vehicle, a supervisor told him it was fine to transport a child without the seat, as long as he turned on his emergency lights and drove slowly;
- A supervisor told an agent to have the child’s mother hold the child in her lap while the agent “carefully” drove to the station; and
- Child safety seats have been found to be improperly mounted to vehicle seats, in some instances because the vehicle seats were never equipped to hold a child safety seat and in other instances because the installer likely didn’t know how to install one.
The union first broached this issue in 2014 when Del Rio Sector had very few child safety seats in its inventory and we started seeing a marked increase in family units crossing the border. Since then, the agency has purchased additional child safety seats and some stations even designated certain vehicles to always contain child safety seats.
However, despite a continued flow of family units across the border, it is clear that guidance is needed in the field, including how to properly mount the seats and when they are supposed to be used.
Del Rio Sector management has been notified of these recurring issues and they informed the union that training is being developed in the installation and use of child safety seats when transporting children; we have not seen any interim guidance sent to the field.
In the meantime, it is important that all members know that they are responsible for the safety and well-being of anyone they transport in their vehicles. If you are in a vehicle accident and a child is injured because a child safety seat was not used or was improperly used, you may face disciplinary action.
If a supervisor ever orders you to improperly transport a child without the use of a child safety seat, you should verify the order (preferably via radio on tower). Ordinarily when a supervisor tells you to do something that might be improper, the appropriate way to handle it is to obey the order now and grieve it later – if you find yourself in this situation, immediately contact your local union rep.
Our goal is ensure the safety and well-being of ourselves and those in our custody, so when in doubt, check with your local union rep.