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DOT 24-06
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Contact: Brian Turmail
Telephone: (202) 366-4570

U.S. Transportation Chief Declares Low Child Booster Seat Use "Unacceptable"

National statistics showing less than one out of every five kids between the ages of four and eight is riding in a car booster seat are a sign of "failure" and must be addressed immediately, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said today during a visit to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

First responders and emergency room doctors and nurses are "doing their part to address the consequences of this country’s failure to put children in booster seats," Mineta said at a news conference, but he labeled "unacceptable" the effort to get kids buckled up. "Starting right now we must all do a better job.

Over the past two years, Mineta said less than 20 percent of kids who should be in booster seats are actually in them when they are riding in cars.

He used the occasion to announce a new federal initiative that will provide $25 million over the next four years to states that pass and enforce new or tougher booster seat laws.  He said 34 states and the District of Columbia already have booster seat laws, but took time to call the names of the 16 states that don’t have such protections on the books.

These states, Mineta said, should "do the right thing and pass a law now."

Mineta also called on parents to do a better job, saying they should make sure their children are in booster seats regardless of local statutes.

"Just because they may not be the law of the land, does not mean they should not be the law of your house," Mineta said.

As for the low use rates, Mineta said people were either "unfamiliar with the risks or unaware of the benefits".

"Either way, ignorance isn’t bliss…it’s deadly," he said.

Mineta encouraged parents to visit www.boosterseat.gov to find out if their child should be in a booster seat and said his Department would spend $285,000 for new billboard and radio and television advertisements to promote booster seat use nationwide.

Mineta was joined by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), whom he thanked for his support and passage of critical highway safety and infrastructure legislation last year.