It is truly a pleasure for me to be here today with DaimlerChrysler for this important announcement. As we all know, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in this country for young children. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Properly used child safety seats and seat belts are among the most effective safety equipment in your car and they can cut the number of deaths and injuries in half. But to save lives, they have to be used and they have to be used properly. And that is not always easy.
Observational surveys and summaries of car seat check-up events routinely show that over 80 percent of child safety seats are misused. Unfortunately, most parents do not know the seats are improperly installed until after a crash in which their child is killed or injured.
In 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board completed a comprehensive study on child passenger safety. We found that:
· Over half of the parents or caregivers in our sample who reported that they had read the child restraint manufacturer's instructions or vehicle owner's manual, or both, still made errors in buckling their child into the restraint or the restraint into the vehicle.
· Also, more than two-thirds of the children in our study were in the wrong restraint for their age, height and weight. We found that consistently, children were in restraint systems too advanced for their size, such as moving from child safety seats to seat belts rather than into booster seats.
Well-intentioned parents and caregivers are attempting to do the right thing for their children, but they are presented with a very complex challenge to install their child safety seat properly.
Many individuals and organizations across America have done valuable work to address this challenge in the past several years. They have created training programs and held child safety seat inspection events. They have made a significant difference and they have saved lives.
But taken together, all of those efforts were not large enough in scope to meet the need. That is why we have continued to issue recommendations in this area.
The Safety Board has issued over 60 recommendations in the past few years calling for improvements in child passenger safety. Some of those recommendations include designing child-friendly back seats, developing a highly visible safety information campaign for parents and caregivers about air bags, and pushing for new child safety seat designs that are easier to use.
One of our most important safety recommendations was made just 5 months ago. On January 13, the Safety Board asked the States, the Federal government, automobile manufacturers, and child restraint manufacturers to establish multiple permanent locations - or fitting stations -- where parents could go at their convenience to have their child safety seat checked.
We are very pleased that DaimlerChrysler stepped up to our challenge so quickly and with such a far-reaching response. Fit for a Kid goes beyond what we had even imagined - beyond our suggestion of fitting stations-- to make child safety seat inspections an integral part of the safety service for customers of one of the world's largest corporations.
Today, DaimlerChrysler sets a new standard for child passenger safety for the entire auto industry.
I hope that the rest of the automobile industry will show the same responsibility that DaimlerChrysler and their participating dealers have shown today by providing this service to their communities and to the children of this country. If the other automobile manufactures follow DaimlerChrysler's lead, the child restraint misuse problem that exists today will not exist in the 21st Century.
My congratulations to Bob Eaton and the dealers and staff of DaimlerChrysler, and to Fisher-Price and the National Safety Council, for this most important effort to save children's lives.
Today is a great day for the kids of America. Today, one of the world's automotive leaders has answered our call and is putting children first in automobile safety!