Chief Judge O'Connell announces Have a Heart child safety seat program
Released on 5/11/2012 4:29:23 PM

Chicago, IL - Cook County Chief Judge Donald P. O'Connell and Chicago Traffic Center Supervising Judge Patrick E. McGann today announced the Circuit Court of Cook County will implement the Have a Heart program in which traffic violators found guilty of not properly restraining their infants or toddlers will be given the option to purchase a new child safety car seat at a reduced cost.

Effective February 13, 2001, through March 31, 2001, judges will offer those traffic violators the choice to either pay the maximum $40 fine or have the fine forgiven by participating in the Have a Heart program in which they view a 20-minute video on proper restraint of children in vehicles and then purchase a child safety car seat at a discounted price. The Circuit Court's Have a Heart program is operated in partnership with the Cook County Hospital Car Seat Program.

"The court remains committed to implementing interdisciplinary partnerships to improve traffic safety," said Chief Judge O'Connell. "Quite simply, if the Have a Heart program helps us to get more car seats in use, more lives will be saved," Chief Judge O'Connell added.

Latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that more than 50 percent of all infants and toddlers (birth through age four) who were killed in vehicles were unrestrained, according to Judge McGann, who also is Chairperson of the Circuit Court of Cook County Community Safety Initiative. The death rate increases to more than 55 percent for children ages 5 through 9 and jumps to more than 67 percent for children ages 10 through 15.

"The court is sponsoring the Have a Heart program in a effort to put a stop to these tragic, needless deaths," said Judge McGann. "Parents who participate in the program will come away understanding that a child weighing under 80 pounds is too small to be safely restrained by an adult seatbelt, which can even cause critical or fatal injuries."

Judge McGann continued, "The laws of physics dictate children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds and less than four feet nine inches in height should be properly restrained in a booster seat. Have a Heart will help violators become aware of the potentially unsafe consequences of driving with infants and toddlers not properly restrained."

The Circuit Court of Cook County also has formed partnerships with hospitals and clinics throughout Cook County to distribute a variety of informational publications produced by federal and state agencies, safety and medical groups and auto manufacturers concerning child safety seat and child protection issues.

Included among the publications is a booklet prepared by the Circuit Court which lists locations and telephone numbers of child safety seat inspection stations in the Chicago metropolitan area where parents may have seats inspected and receive instruction on proper restraint of children in vehicles.

The informational publications, available in English and Spanish, will be distributed during National Child Passenger Safety Week, February 11 through February 17. Also, the informational publications will be available at the Juvenile Court Building, 1100 South Hamilton Avenue in Chicago, through the Office of the Public Guardian and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and at the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place.

The following hospitals and clinics will participate in the distribution: Cook County Children's Hospital-Fantas Clinic; University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Pediatrics; University of Chicago Children's Hospital; Friend-Family Health Center; Rush Pediatric Primary Care Center; Resurrection Medical Center; Family Practice Center; St. James Community Health Care Center; Ingalls Community Care Center; Christ Hospital and Medical Center; Lutheran General Hospital; Pediatric Clinic at the Yacktman Pavillion; Dr. Marc Weissbluth, M.D., S.C. at the Northwestern Children's Practice; and the Cook County Department of Public Health Clinics serving Circuit Court of Cook County Municipal Districts Three, Five and Six.

The Have a Heart program is part of the Circuit Court of Cook County's Drive Wise, Stay Alive public education campaign. Both the program and the campaign are funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Illinois Department of Transportation. The Have a Heart program is also being conducted in concert with the Illinois Click it or Ticket seatbelt enforcement drive. More than 450 law enforcement agencies statewide are conducting Click it or Ticket blitzes during National Child Passenger Safety Week.