In April, parents flocked to Smith South Plains Ford-Lincoln-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Levelland, Texas, to have qualified technicians check their vehicles’ child safety seats for proper sizing and installation.
Of the 30 seats inspected, 90 percent had some problem, says Annette Sykora, 49, who co-owns the dealership with her husband, Pat. They replaced faulty seats with new ones for free.
“We usually replace about as many safety seats as we see kids,” Annette Sykora says. “It is an amazing thing to be part of, to know you are a part of keeping that child safe.”
The Sykoras have done child safety seat inspections since 2003, when Annette Sykora helped kick off the National Automobile Dealers Association’s campaign on proper safety seat use. She has five children and the family has traveled a lot by car, so the cause is personal, Sykora says.
“It only takes doing one event to get you hooked to do periodic events,” she says.
When she was NADA chairman in 2008, Sykora traveled to New York to film a public service announcement promoting a segment of the children’s show “SeeMore’s Playhouse” focusing on child passenger safety. NADA was technical adviser for the segment, which subsequently won an Emmy award. NADA later gave copies of the segment to dealers to hand out to customers as a promotion for child safety seat inspections at their stores.
Sykora’s stores, which are all in one location in Levelland, a city of 13,500 about 25 miles west of Lubbock, sold a combined 850 new and used units in 2012.
The dealership was the perfect location for the event because the cars could be driven inside for checking and installation, says Marsha Blair, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent in Hockley County. The extension service works with Sykora on the child safety seat program, providing seats and technicians.
Sykora “went above and beyond what anybody else has done,” Blair said. She and her husband “brought a grill and grilled hot dogs for all the workers. She was more than happy to help.