Thank you. I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board.
In January 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the states, the federal government, automobile manufacturers, and child restraint manufacturers establish fitting stations where parents could go to have their child safety seats checked. I am pleased and grateful that the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association is responding to our call and creating Child Safety Stops. Both the Dealers and the Safety Board know that childrens' lives could depend on it.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in this country for young children. Surveys and reports from car seat check-up events routinely show that over 80 percent of child safety seats are misused. Unfortunately, most parents don't know the seats are improperly installed until after a crash in which their child is injured or killed.
Since 1990, over 90,000 young people under the age of 21 have died in motor vehicle crashes. Nearly 15,000 of those children were under the age of 10. That means every day 32 children under the age of ten are dying in motor vehicle crashes.
Properly used, child safety seats and seat belts are among the most effective safety equipment in a vehicle, 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.
In 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board completed a comprehensive study on child passenger safety. We found that:
- Over half of the parents made errors in buckling their children into the restraint or the restraint seat into the vehicle - even those who reported that they had read the child restraint manufacturer's instructions or vehicle owner's manual, or both.
- More than two-thirds of the children in our study were in the wrong restraint for their age, height and weight. Typically children were in restraint systems too advanced for their size. For example, many were moved from a child safety seat to a seat belt rather than into a booster seat.
Well-intentioned people are attempting to do the right thing for their children, but they are presented with a very complex challenge:
- Finding a restraint that is compatible with the car;
- Making sure it is right for the child; and
- Assuring the safety seat and child are snug.
Many individuals and organizations across America have done valuable work to address this challenge in the past, but these efforts were not enough to meet the need.
That is why it is so gratifying to be here today to help WANADA launch its new Child Safety Stop program that will provide a free child safety seat fitting station every week at a dealership in the Washington D.C. area.
The Safety Board urges other automobile dealers across the country to follow suit by offering child safety seat inspections at their dealerships because, as the WANADA slogan says, "Every Child Deserves A Perfect Fit." If they do, our children will be safer, and lives will be saved.