Ill. Gov., 21st Century Launch Statewide Car Seat Safety Partnership Program

May 12, 2004

In a unique Mother’s Day collaboration designed to reduce the leading cause of fatalities among children, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and 21st Century Insurance Company launched a consumer safety program promoting child seat safety and compliance with Illinois’ stronger new car seat law.

“As strong as a mother’s love is, it can’t always protect our children from harm. Every year, almost 3,000 children under the age of 16 are killed in car accidents, nationwide. The vast majority of those children could have been saved if they were buckled up properly every time they get in a car,” said Blagojevich, speaking to parents at a safety check site outside McCormick Place in Chicago. “But on Mother’s Day, we believed it was important that we all take a moment to recognize just how important it is to make sure your children are safely buckled up.” The consumer safety campaign is an extension of the Governor’s ongoing Keep Our Kids Safe initiative, which partners with other public and private organizations to help provide car passenger safety equipment and education.

The Illinois program is modeled after a California partnership between 21st Century and the California Highway Patrol. Since 2001, CHP and 21st Century have conducted more than 2,000 inspections and given away more than 1,400 seats to families in need.

“At 21st Century, we pride ourselves on our commitment to consumer education and safety,” said Bruce Marlow, 21st Century president and CEO. “Our safety programs with the CHP help save lives, and we’re committed to working closely with our Illinois partners to keep our kids safe.”

Since Jan. 1 of this year, Illinois has had a new child safety seat law on the books. The new law requires all children under the age of eight to be properly secured in a child restraint seat. Infants have to be in a safety seat facing toward the rear, toddlers should be securely strapped into a seat facing forward, and older children should be in booster seats that allow them to use a shoulder harness safely.

To help inform the public, the State of Illinois and 21st Century Insurance sponsored a series of safety inspection and installation fairs across the state, beginning with Mother’s Day events in Chicago, Rockford and Peoria.

At all three locations, specially trained and certified technicians inspected and, if necessary, replaced and installed a new car seat donated by 21st Century. Old, broken and recalled car seats were replaced free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis. The joint initiative will continue to hold safety seat events throughout the summer across Illinois.

Representatives from the Illinois KidCare program were also on hand to distribute information about the state’s health insurance program for children in low-income families.

“I know it’s customary on Mother’s Day to give Mom jewelry or slippers or flowers. But on this Mother’s Day, for moms all across the state, I think we did even better. Because thanks to this new initiative, we gave them peace of mind,” the Governor added.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children. Research shows that 96 percent of parents believe their children are properly buckled in their safety seats, yet data from actual inspections show that 73 percent of the children riding in child safety seats are improperly restrained. What’s more, 71 percent of traffic fatalities and 66 percent of injuries could be prevented if every child properly used appropriate car seats.

In addition to the Mother’s Day campaign, the state will work with 21st Century to display dozens of traffic safety billboards along highways this summer, reminding drivers to make sure children are properly secured. The state will also promote traffic safety and car seat safety during the Illinois State Fair in Springfield this summer.

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