The 2020 Texas Child Passenger Safety Conference held Sept. 9–11 was the first virtual version of the event and the fourth such gathering to bring together child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) from around the state of Texas. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and organized by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the annual gathering helps CPSTs learn about the latest research and trends in child passenger safety (CPS) while providing them with continuing education credits for recertification. This year’s conference boasted a record attendance of 400 participants.
Attendees participated in general and breakout sessions on a variety of CPS topics. They also had access to a virtual social hour, chats with fellow attendees and presenters, and various engagement activities unique to the virtual format.
Maggi Gunnels, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Region 6 administrator who opened the conference, says her favorite part is seeing how passionate the CPS community is. “I really appreciate everything you do,” Gunnels told attendees. “It’s your leadership that makes all the difference in the world.”
Keynote speaker Laura Dunn, CPS subject matter expert in NHTSA’s Office of Occupant Protection, develops CPS programming at the national level in collaboration with government and non-profit agencies. Dunn shared her own experience of becoming certified and how her passion for keeping children riding safely led to her education and career path to a national position, where she can more effectively promote best practices as a CPS champion. She also let technicians know about NHTSA’s national digital car seat check form, which CPSTs can use to track and make progress on car seat checks while working from the safety and comfort of their own homes. The form is available at https://carseatcheckform.org/.
On Sept. 11, the conference’s opening session honored those who lost their lives in the attacks in 2001. The CPS community filled the chat section with memories about 9/11.
TTI Senior Research Scientist Katie Womack coordinates the conference for TTI. Looking back on this year’s online event, she says, “Putting on this conference is one of the most gratifying things we are privileged to do. The virtual conference was a new but exciting experience for us, and truly a team effort. We’re very pleased with the positive response from attendees.”
The next Texas Child Passenger Safety Conference will be held June 29–July 1, 2021, in Sugar Land, Texas.