Each year, thousands of children in the U.S. are killed or injured in automobile accidents because they were not riding in child safety seats or because the seats were not installed properly–and a disproportionate amount of those children are African American or Hispanic. For example, African-American children are three times more likely to die in a car crash than Caucasian youngsters.
“These statistics are unacceptable and the sad truth is that many of these deaths could have been prevented,” says Matt Reynolds, director of safety compliance for DaimlerChrysler Corp., which sponsors Fit for a Kid, a national safety seat education program. “Many [minority] families cannot afford child safety seats or are using second-hand seats that could be damaged or recalled. Language barriers and cultural factors also contribute to car seat misuse and non-use.”
To close this safety gap, DaimlerChrysler and its Fit for a Kid co-sponsor, the National Safety Council (NSC), are partnering with hospitals in major U.S. cities with large minority populations to provide free child safety seats to low-income families. Last year, the program distributed more than 15,000 seats through urban hospitals in Miami, Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Atlanta and elsewhere.
Because the NSC estimates that more than 80% of safety seats are installed and/or used incorrectly, Fit for a Kid’s minority safety initiative also includes a parent education component. Besides giving out free seats, hospital staff also provide families with informational brochures about proper safety seat use, in both English and Spanish. In addition, DaimlerChrysler dealers around the country are offering free safety seat inspections for motorists. Families can call 1-877-Fit-4-A-Kid toll free to locate the nearest participating dealer and schedule an appointment.
For more information about this program, see www.fitforakid.org.
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