WASHINGTON - Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday it will donate 15,000 booster seats to American Indian children, who are more likely to be involved in crashes than children of other ethnic groups.
''Native Americans are being given special attention because their children suffer motor vehicle injury and death rates that are two to three times greater than other Americans,'' said Lou Camp, director of Ford's Automotive Safety Office.
According to a fact sheet issued by the automaker, American Indian children are at greater risk of motor vehicle-related death due to lower rates of seat belt use, frequent travel on two-lane roads and riding with drivers who have been drinking. Studies done by the Indian Health Service have shown that child-restraint use on some reservations is as low as 10 percent.
Booster seats are for children weighing 40-80 pounds who are too big for car seats. They raise the child up in the seat so seat belts fit them better and more comfortably.
Tribal leaders from across the country were presented the first seats at a Washington luncheon attended by National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Sue Bailey.
''Unfortunately, only a small number - less than 10 percent - of children who should be riding in a booster seat are doing so, and more than 500 children ages 4 to 8 are killed every year as a result,'' Bailey said.
The seats will be distributed to tribes in 18 states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
They are being distributed as part of Ford's Boost America! campaign, which aims to provide 1 million free booster seats to Ford owners.
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