Organization continues bringing kids’ safety seat issues before the public.

AUGUSTA – State and regional officials observed the first anniversary of Maine’s booster seat law and launched the second year of the Maine Coalition for SAFE KIDS’ BoostME Up! public awareness campaign in partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts on Jan. 7 at the Statehouse.

SAFE KIDS Executive Director David Willauer said 39 car seat safety checkup events were held last year. Of 583 recorded inspections from July to December 2003, 95 percent of seats were being used incorrectly. Nationally, approximately 80 percent of child safety seats are misused. A total of 866 seats were inspected in 2003.

“Every three days in Maine, a child between the ages of 4 and 8 is injured in an automobile crash,” said Dr. Dora A. Mills, director of the state Bureau of Health. “The number one way to prevent a child from being injured in a crash is to make sure they are properly secured in a safety seat.”

According to SAFE KIDS statistics, 30 of the inspected seats were recalled or unsafe. Thirty four new seats were given away, and more than 500 drivers received information and instruction for safely restraining their child passengers.

Richard Perkins, director of the state Bureau of Highway Safety, explained that public safety employees throughout the state also provide education and inspections for car seat owners.

“Local police and fire departments act as some of the 30 safety seat fitting stations in the state,” said Perkins. “The network of fitting stations provides a system of making seats available to those who are not able to afford them.”

The BoostME Up! campaign is similar to other state programs that have been developed to support child safety seat legislation. Maine’s booster seat law requires that children who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are under 8 years old be properly secured in a federally approved child restraint system. Additionally, children who are under 12 and less than 100 pounds must sit in the rear seat of a vehicle whenever possible.

Willauer said SAFE KIDS will again hold safety seat checkup events at shopping centers, schools and hospitals this year. Dunkin’ Donuts stores will also sponsor events and carry BoostME Up! informational brochures for the public.

For more information, call the Maine Coalition for SAFE KIDS at 1-800-649-1304.

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