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Safe Kids organization honors teachers, families
By ROSALIND HELDERMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- Hit from behind, a Honda CRV flips onto its roof and skids to a halt, still overturned. A family of five, properly buckled up inside, walks away without a scratch.
A girl is biking across busy 54th Avenue S on her way home from school and is struck by a car. Her helmet, which she wears daily, cracks open. The girl is fine.
These were some of the accident success stories shared at a luncheon Wednesday honoring the Safe Kids Coalition, an organization dedicated to preventing child injuries.
But for each of these success stories, there are tragedies. According to statistics from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, two children were killed in 1999 in Pinellas County bicycle accidents, and car crashes killed 10 passengers who were not wearing seat belts.
The Florida Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition, one of more than 280 similar organizations across the United States and Canada, brings together area hospitals, law enforcement agencies and residents to educate the public about keeping children out of harm's way.
The 10-year-old group aims to lower statistics showing that accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for children under 14 in the United States.
Those who work with the group know they're more likely to hear about the tragedies than about those who heed their message and stay safe.
"We know we help people every day, and we just may not hear about it. We don't want thanks for it. We want continued success," said fire Lt. Christopher Bengivengo, who is chairman of the Pinellas County Safe Kids Coalition.
The group organizes child-seat safety checks and bicycle helmet giveaways. The next such event will take place after the start of the school year.
Wednesday the group gathered to honor those who teach safety and those who have learned the lesson. Al and Stefanie Moran, whose family walked away unharmed from their wrecked Honda CRV less than a month ago, received an award. So did Ashley Miller, the 12-year whose helmet cracked when she was hit by a car.
Brittany Pinson, a 13-year-old from Highlands County, was also recognized for winning a nationwide essay contest. In her essay, which was one of 20 chosen from 6,000 entries, Brittany told how a softball helmet saved her life when she was struck in the head by a ball.
Showered with prizes, certificates and a possible spot on the Today Show, she urged kids to follow her example.
"Some kids think it looks cool not to wear a helmet. I always tell kids just to be safe," she said.
Safe Kids safety tips
Always wear a bicycle helmet. In Florida, it's the law.
Bicycle helmets should be worn snugly, but not too tightly, sitting on top of the head in a level position. It should not rock forward and back or from side to side. Helmet straps should always be buckled.
For automobile travel, children under the age of 1 should be placed in rear-facing child safety seats. Never put a rear-facing infant or convertible safety seat in the front passenger seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag.
Children over 1 year old and between 20 and 40 pounds should be in forward-facing child safety seats.
Children ages 4 to 8 should be in a car booster seat and restrained with a lap/shoulder belt every time they ride.
For more safety information, call Safe Kids at (800) 756-SAFE or (813) 898-SAFE.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.