A 30-minute child safety seat inspection was all it took to protect happy-go-lucky, three-year-old Monica Halvey from serious injury. Just one week after Monica’s mother took her ’98 Ford Contour in for a Fit for a Kid child seat inspection at a Chrysler/Plymouth/Jeep, Dodge dealer, they were involved in a significant three-vehicle crash on an Illinois highway.

Monica and her mother, Barbara Halvey, were on their way to an Easter visit with Monica’s father in Illinois when the crash occurred on Route 31 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Ms. Halvey suffered minor injuries from the impact, but Monica was unharmed — perfectly restrained in the middle rear seat, the safest place for any child. Paramedics, who examined Monica from head to toe, did not find a scratch or bruise on her.

“Protecting children is the driving force behind the DaimlerChrysler Corp. Fit for a Kid service — whether their parents drive a Chrysler, Dodge or Ford,” said James Holden, president of DaimlerChrysler Corp. “In February, we opened this free, life-saving service to everyone, regardless of what make or vehicle they drive. We did this because we knew it was too important not to. Today, we are thrilled to know that this valuable service helped avert a potentially heartbreaking tragedy for this family.”

The crash occurred on Good Friday — seven days after Fit for a Kid inspectors Pat Schulz and Lyn Henriksen at Miller Motors in Burlington, Wis. swapped Monica’s older model shield booster seat for a new Fisher-Price Safe Embrace booster seat.

“The seat Monica was using did not provide the support to Monica’s head, neck or back that the high-back Fisher-Price seat offered,” said Schulz.

As part of the service, DaimlerChrysler provides Fisher-Price loaner seats and Fisher-Price discount coupons to parents who come to an inspection with a damaged or recalled seat. Fisher-Price, a leading child safety seat manufacturer, is a valuable partner in Fit for a Kid. Fit for a Kid also has the support of the nation’s top safety organization, the National Safety Council, which coordinates the program’s inspector training and record keeping.

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Master Police Officer Bob Wall of the Fairfax, Va. County Police Department, director of the Fit for a Kid training program, said: “Our inspectors were absolutely right in their assessment. Without a high-back booster seat Monica would not have been adequately protected from injury — especially because the vehicle was struck from behind.”

Monica’s story highlights the urgent need for parents to have their children’s safety seats inspected as well as the importance of booster seats.

“Until my Mom told me about this problem after seeing a Fit for a Kid advertisement, I had no idea that Monica was at risk,” said Barb Halvey. “If we had not gone to Miller Motors for this help, Monica may not have been so lucky. I am very grateful to the inspectors, Miller Motors and DaimlerChrysler for providing this service.”

A recent survey by the National Safety Council and DaimlerChrysler found that 96 percent of caregivers were comfortable that they always install and use their child seats correctly. In contrast, actual safety seat inspections show that only 20 percent of children in safety seats are, in fact, properly buckled in.

At the same time, many parents are not aware that when their children outgrow forward-facing child safety seats (at age four and 40 pounds), they should use booster seats until their children reach 80 pounds and 4 feet 10 inches. In fact, half of all the child seats loaned out by Fit for a Kid inspectors are booster seats.

Miller Motors owner Christopher Miller is no stranger to the confusion parents face when trying to install child safety seats.

“The decision to become a Fit for a Kid dealer was an easy one for me,” said Miller. “With three kids under six, my wife and I know firsthand how difficult it can be to install a seat.”

In January 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on automakers and others to create a national system of permanent child safety seat fitting stations. DaimlerChrysler is the only company to meet that challenge by creating permanent fitting stations with Fit for a Kid.

“Monica’s experience demonstrates how important it is to have permanent fitting stations available for parents to use,” said Jim Hall, chairman of the NTSB. “There is no doubt that DaimlerChrysler and the other manufacturers who are following their lead are helping prevent needless tragedy on our nation’s highways.”

DaimlerChrysler created Fit for a Kid in the summer of 1999 with a pilot program in four markets. Initially, the service was available only for DaimlerChrysler customers. Today, almost 500 Five Star DaimlerChrysler dealers are participating in the program in more than 90 markets across the country. By the end of the year, the service will be available at 1,000 Five Star DaimlerChrysler dealers.

Fit for a Kid is designed to be a convenient, personalized service for today’s busy parents. Appointments can be scheduled by calling toll free 1- 877-FIT-4-A-KID, clicking on www.fitforakid.org, or calling a participating dealer directly. Each inspection takes 20-30 minutes.

“Our seats were designed to provide safer protection for children in a crash,” said Neil Friedman, President of Fisher-Price. “Having helped save this child’s life makes us even prouder to be a partner in Fit for a Kid.”

To generate greater awareness of the problem, DaimlerChrysler and its dealers recently launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign and a promotional partnership with Arthur, the star of a best-selling book series and the number one children’s television program on PBS.

“Raising awareness of the need for child safety seat inspections is one of the greatest challenges we face,” said Chuck Hurley, executive director of public affairs, the National Safety Council. “We hope that this news will encourage more parents to have their children’s seats inspected.”

Fit for a Kid is one of several DaimlerChrysler safety initiatives. Other safety programs include The Back is Where It’s At, Stop Red Light Running, Do the Buckle, and The Neon Drunk Driver Simulator. DaimlerChrysler also is a partner in the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.