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A community that cares
Coalition promotes child safety
6 Safe Kids pic 2
Randall Townley, left, and Bobbi Jo Corcoran, right of Safe Kids Dawson County show mother Tonya Frady how to correctly install her child’s car seat in her vehicle. - photo by Photo/Elizabeth Hamilton

Sometimes, a band-aid is not enough to make the pain go away after a young child falls off his or her bicycle, and it’s certainly not a safety precaution to protect children from unintentional injuries such as bicycle accidents.


A community coalition, Safe Kids Dawson County focuses on preventing children from preventable injuries.


“In Dawson County, the leading injuries affecting children are falls and motor vehicle accidents, which involve anything with wheels,” said Dawson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Johnny Holtzclaw, director of Safe Kids Dawson County.


Formed in June 2000, Safe Kids Dawson County is a local coalition that is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of over 400 coalitions in 15 countries whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 and under.


The coalition’s lead agency is the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and is supported by several organizations throughout the county, including: Dawson County Emergency Services, Dawson County Fire Department, Lions Club, the school system, Wal-Mart, Bearden Funeral Home, Jan’s Daycare Center and several others. 


The six primary accidental injuries include falls, fire/burns, drowning, poisoning/choking, unintentional shootings and motor vehicle crashes.


Through the efforts of various supporting organizations throughout the county, Safe Kids Dawson County is able to educate and protect the community from the aforementioned dangers by distributing child safety equipment to children, implementing safety programs, teaching safety to school children and teaching safety to parent groups.


One main event that the coalition sponsors in elementary schools each year is a bicycle rodeo.


Targeted toward second grade students, the rodeo gives children the opportunity to ride a bicycle, with or without training wheels, around an obstacle course set up in the gym.


“Typically, second grade children are in the transition phase of learning to ride with or without training wheels, as well as moving up to larger bikes,” Holtzclaw said.


The courses include stop signs and detours to avoid in the middle of the course, showing children safe bike riding habits.


The main feature of the rodeo is the free helmet that each child receives, provided by the coalition, and volunteers with the program see to it that each helmet fits properly and that each child knows how to wear it properly.


According to Holtzclaw, about 1,500 helmets were given to bike rodeo participants this year.


Seat checks for child passenger safety is also an event sponsored by the coalition that aims to protect young children who still travel in car seats.


A seat check event was held last month in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Dawsonville, in which 17 seats were inspected for correct use, correct installment and expiration.


According to Holtzclaw, two out of the 17 checked seats were installed correctly.


“A typical car seat will expire in 5 years,” Holtzclaw said. “The most important thing to do when you have small children in a car seat is to read the manuel for the vehicle, as well as the seat, to install it correctly, and make sure it fits your child.”


Throughout the coalition’s efforts to prevent childhood injury, Holtzclaw notes the importance of promoting safety precautions in children.


“We can’t prevent the cause of the accident, but our goal is to make the child as safe as possible in the event that an accident occurs,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at