CHICAGO – Marking 25 years since Illinois adopted a law to protect children riding in vehicles, representatives of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s administration were joined today by Secretary of State Jesse White, AAA and the original sponsor of the law, Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), at an event to kick off National Child Passenger Safety Week. The Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Human Services, AAA and their partners will be hosting checkpoints at 95 locations around the state this weekend as part of National Seat Check Saturday. Certified child safety seat technicians will provide free on-site child safety seat inspections for parents.
The original child safety seat law enacted in 1983 required a safety seat for all children up to four years old. Governor Blagojevich signed an amendment in 2003 that doubled the age for safety seat or booster seat use for children to up to eight years old.
“Five years ago, I signed an amendment to the Child Passenger Protection Act to protect the safety of children while they are passengers in cars,” said Governor Blagojevich. “However, child safety seats don’t work if they are not properly installed, so that’s why it’s important for parents and caregivers to get a free safety seat inspection this Saturday.”
“It is my mission as Secretary of State to help ensure children are safe and secure while riding in vehicles on our roads,” said Secretary of State White. “I want to emphasize the importance that all children under the age of eight must be secured in an appropriate child safety seat. It is equally important to make sure that every child safety seat is properly installed in the vehicle. For these reasons I am happy to partner with AAA and IDOT to continue offering child safety seat inspections to protect our children and give parents the peace of mind that their children are safe.”
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research, 8,325 lives of children under age five have been saved by the proper use of child restraints during the past 30 years. A recent IDOT survey found the child safety seat usage rate is 87.2 percent in Illinois, but only 53.6 percent of those observed used the seats properly.
“In the 1980’s after our first child was born, my wife Pam realized how important it was to make sure all of our children were safely buckled up in car seats,” said Sen. Cullerton. “As a concerned citizen and social activist, she saw that some families simply could not afford to provide the same safety seats for their own children and she did something about it. She put together a loaner program that provided free child restraints to families in need, so their children could be protected as ours were. With her encouragement, we expanded her program and ensured children across the state were properly restrained in child safety seats with the passage of the Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act in 1983. Now, 25 years later, countless children are safer because of her compassion and foresight.”
“It is the responsibility of every single parent and caregiver out there to make sure their children are safely restrained – every trip, every time,” said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. “We are urging all parents to get their child safety seats inspected. When it comes to the safety of children, there is no room for mistakes.”
According to a new survey by AAA Chicago, 67 percent of parents said that most parents with a young child do not have a clear understanding of how to correctly install and/or use child safety seats. The survey also revealed that nearly half of all parents (48 percent) know someone who has driven without securing their young child in a child restraint device in the past 12 months. The survey, conducted in May 2008, included 1,000 Illinois parents with children under eight years old.
“Illinois has made great strides in keeping its children safe on the roadways,” said Brad Roeber, regional president of AAA Chicago. “But, as survey data tells us, there are still some parents who need assistance to ensure Illinois children are safely buckled up. We encourage these and all parents to take advantage of Seat Check Saturday as AAA wants the roads to be safe for even its youngest travelers.”
Health care professionals agree that the proper use of a child safety seat is essential for protecting children who are passengers in cars from serious injuries.
“I have taken care of a lot of sick children, having worked in the Emergency Department of Children's Memorial Hospital for nearly 20 years,” said Dr. Karen Sheehan. “I have treated kids with cancer, rare genetic disorders – but the saddest cases of all, I think, are the injuries that could be prevented.”
“The enactment of the Child Passenger Safety Act 25 years ago provided the Illinois State Police with an opportunity to educate parents on the importance of child safety seat use,” said ISP Director Larry G. Trent. “Today, the ISP has approximately 100 individuals trained as Safety Seat Technicians who ensure safety seat devices are properly installed. It is essential for parents to understand not only the law and how to install the seats, but also the tragic consequences which can occur for failing to buckle-up children correctly.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services is teaming up with ISP this month to sponsor a series of safety seat checks. These checks are free to the general public, and eligible IDHS customers may receive a free car seat. Families are urged to bring in their children and their car seats where certified technicians will inspect their car seats and their installation.
The events are:
Saturday, Sept. 20: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Rizza Ford, 8100 South 159th Street, Orland Park; Jewel-Osco, 127th & State, Lemont; CVS Pharmacy, 5360 S. Western, Chicago.
Sunday, Sept. 27: 10:00a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Norwegian American Hospital (parking lot), 1044 N. Mozart, Chicago.
For more information on Child Passenger Safety Week, a national effort to remind parents and caregivers of the lifesaving effect child safety seats have in protecting young children, please visit www.nhtsa.gov