DaimlerChrysler is stepping up its efforts to keep children safe on the road.
The automaker's Fit for a Kid/Me Siento Seguro ('I feel safe' in Spanish) program is the biggest initiative to date to ensure that kids are safe and secure in vehicles, says Rosalyn Millman, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Fit for a Kid has two components:
1. Through April, DaimlerChrysler is sponsoring a $1 million pilot program in Detroit, Miami, San Antonio and San Diego in which it will join hospitals to provide safety seats to low-income families. In addition to donating 5,000 car seats in each of the four cities, Daimler-Chrysler will provide brochures and instructions on how to install the seats.
2. A permanent, $10 million annual program, launched in February, offers free child safety seat inspections at Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealerships throughout the nation. The inspections are performed on any brand of vehicle. DaimlerChrysler hopes to have 1,000 dealers participating by year end.
Most kids not secured
'DaimlerChrysler found that more than 80 percent of the kids are not properly buckled in,' says Sue Cischke, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and passenger car operations at DaimlerChrysler Corp. 'But more than 96 percent of the parents believe the kids are buckled in properly. Fit for a Kid is trying to help that.'
Indeed, NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board confirm that vehicle accidents are the No. 1 killer of children and that 60 percent of those children were not properly restrained. The government agencies say minority children are killed in traffic accidents at a greater rate than white children.
Teaming with hospitals
Cischke says DaimlerChrysler chose to work with hospitals on the program because 'the birth of children is a good time to educate parents.'
The National Safety Council estimates there were 30,000 safety seat inspections in 1998. Cischke says DaimlerChrysler's program will have the capacity to inspect 800,000 annually as more dealers are trained and participate. There had been about 13,000 inspections through the end of October.
DaimlerChrysler offers a toll-free number, (877) Fit-4-a-Kid, and a Web site, fitforakid.org, for people to make appointments at participating dealers.