PHOTO: The 2014 LS460 4 Door Sedan all-wheel drive. Toyota's Lexus F-sport features a 386-hp* V8 engine, air suspension and other luxury features
Every four seconds, a child is treated for an injury in an emergency department. One of the leading causes of death of children under 12 is motor vehicle crashes. And according to studies, Hispanic and African-American children are as much as 10 times less likely to be buckled up in seat belts or car seats, putting them at a greater risk of injury or death in motor vehicle crashes.
PHOTO: Nathan Washatka, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, hosted a Child Passenger Safety Demonstration in the Toyota Exhibit as the National Urban League Convention on July 25, 2014.
Top automaker Toyota uses the slogan "Let's Go Places." Now the company is making sure those journeys always end in safe places with the "Buckle Up for Life" child car seat campaign.
"We want people to be safe," said James Colon, Vice President of African American Business Strategy at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. "It just makes sense."
Although cars and trucks today are safer than ever, research still shows that motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for children in the U.S. in part because of the lack of or non use of safety equipment such as car seats, booster seats and seat belts.
Dr. Victor Garcia, Founding Director of Trauma Services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals partnered with Toyota to help parents understand the importance of buckling up their children.
A pediatric surgeon, Garcia has seen a lot of children suffering from car crashes where they were not properly buckled up. That's why Dr. Garcia and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital partnered with Toyota in 2004 to create "Buckle Up for Life," a national education program for families to help keep child passengers safe.
While "Buckle Up for Life" aims to protect all children, it began as a program that served the needs of the Hispanic and African American Communities, working with children's hospitals and community organizations such as churches to provide motor vehicle safety information to parents and caregivers.
Since its inception in 2004, the program has educated more than 17,000 individuals nationwide and provided funding for more than 40,000 car seats for families in need. This is important as studies show that about half of all children who die in car crashes were not sitting in a child car safety seat. But Dr. Garcia said the program is not about blame. It is about making sure parents understand the problem and fix it.
"Buckle Up for Life" works with local children's hospitals, organizations and churches to overcome economic, cultural and language barriers to motor vehicle safety. Over a six-week period, medical experts and trained specialists work closely with participants to provide vital safety information. The participants are eligible for free car seats and certified child passenger safety technicians work with them to install the seats to ensure their children are properly restrained.
Research shows that car crashes are one of the leading causes of children's injuries and deaths. "Buckle Up for Life" will help save lives, Garcia said. "I am grateful to Toyota."
Michael Fisher, President and CEO, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center said the partnership and Toyota's strong commitment is making the program a success. Fisher said he is deeply committed to addressing issues of importance to the Greater Cincinnati area. One of his priorities is reducing the area's high rate of unintentional injury and infant mortality.
Colon is a father and he said the program has become his passion. Although his children are teens now, he said he can remember how important it was to make sure they were safe while riding in cars. He praised Dr. Garcia for his vision and thanked him for trusting Toyota with it.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of "Buckle Up for Life," Toyota sponsored a reception at the National Urban League Conference in Cincinnati on July 24, 2014 at the Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. The reception honored Dr. Garcia for his role as visionary of the life saving program.
The program has operated in 11 cities across the country and plans to add three cities a year. The program runs in: Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Memphis, Chicago, Phoenix, Houston, Philadelphia, Orange County and San Antonio.
With all that Dr. Garcia has accomplished with "Buckle Up for Life," he said he is not done yet. "This is not the final version," he said. "Come back in 10 years. . ." His vision is to have the program active in "every city, every neighborhood and every community.