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Child safety campaign initiated    Send a link to a friend

[MAY 10, 2004]  CHICAGO -- In a unique Mother's Day collaboration designed to reduce the leading cause of fatalities among children, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and 21st Century Insurance Company (NYSE: TW) launched a consumer safety program promoting child seat safety and compliance with Illinois' new and stronger law on car seats.

"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 Gov. Blagojevich, speaking on Sunday to parents at a safety check site outside McCormick Place in Chicago. "But today -- on Mother's Day -- it's 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 launched Sunday 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.

Since Jan. 1 of this year, Illinois has had a new child safety seat law on the books. The new law requires all children age 8 and younger 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 will sponsor a series of safety inspection and installation fairs across the state, beginning with the 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-served basis. Parents or guardians were to bring children and car seats for a proper fitting. The joint initiative was expected to give away 500 new car seats over the weekend.

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 can do even better. Because, thanks to this new initiative, we can give them peace of mind," the governor added.

 

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The Illinois program is modeled after a California partnership between 21st Century and the California Highway Patrol. Since 2002, the California Highway Patrol 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 chief executive officer. "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."

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. During the Illinois State Fair in Springfield this summer the state will also promote traffic safety and car seat safety.

The state's partnership with 21st Century will continue throughout summer travel season, with more safety seat installation events being planned around Illinois. In addition, 21st Century and Gov. Blagojevich have published a "Child Safety Seat Parent's Guide" to explain proper seat installation and use. English and Spanish versions of the guide can be obtained by contacting the company's corporate headquarters at 1 (800) 211-SAVE or by visiting www.21st.com.

[News release from the governor's office]

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