When Cora Lomeli heard the police siren behind her, she wheeled her Chevrolet Suburban to the side of the road.
But instead of giving the Reseda woman a ticket, Los Angeles Police Officers Norman A. Kellems and John Nisbet inspected her child safety seats.
As part of a roving patrol, a motorcycle officer pulls over vehicles, and Kellems and Nisbet, following in a squad car, make the inspection.
Kellems and Nisbet said they are the only LAPD officers certified as technicians/instructors by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the use of child safety seats.
Lomeli was pulled over about 9 a.m. in front of her house on Tampa Avenue near Vanowen Street, after officers noticed that her 3-year-old foster son, Jacory Bell, was not wearing a seat belt.
The officers asked Lomeli if she had a booster seat for Jacory and she went into her house and got one. "I was in a hurry," said Lomeli, 36, who was going to drop her three children off at a child-care center. "I should take the time to put the seat belts on and make sure the kids are secure."
Lomeli's 3-month-old son, Ivan, was only loosely strapped in a child seat, which could be dangerous during an accident, Kellems said. "Everything would bounce all over the place and this child would be seriously hurt," he said.
The inspections were part of Safety Seat Checkup Week, an effort organized by SafetyBeltSafe USA, a nonprofit organization based in Torrance that promotes child passenger safety. No citations related to child safety seats are issued during the promotion.
"People need education so they don't become these inconsistent users and their children don't get hurt or killed when a child seat is at hand," said Stephanie M. Tombrello, the group's executive director. "Seventy percent of deaths and two-thirds of injuries can be prevented if everyone uses child restraints correctly--even with misuse child seats do a good job."
Said Kellems: "We find 98% of people using car seats use them improperly."
In 1998, about 160 children statewide died in motor vehicle crashes, according to the California Highway Patrol. Children younger than 4 or weighing less than 40 pounds must be secured in child safety seats. Motorists who don't secure small children in safety seats face fines of $271.
"My concern is the kids," Nisbet said. "If we make the mother late it's too bad--at least we made the child safer."