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CNN Today

Surviving Your Drive: Safety Ambassador Autumn Alexander Skeen Discusses Boost America

Aired August 25, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: For young passengers age 4 to 8, child restraints, booster seats, and seat belts are key elements in surviving a crash.

We turn now to our guest from Washington State, Autumn Alexander Skeen, who is the safety ambassador of Boost America. The group teaches parents to put children of certain ages and sizes in booster seats, rather than just seat belts. And her 4-year-old son was killed and she injured seriously in a crash in 1996.

Autumn, thank you so much for being with us today.

AUTUMN ALEXANDER SKEEN, CHILD AUTO SEAT ADVOCATE: My pleasure.

ALLEN: We're so sorry about the accident. It is such a tragedy. But if you wouldn't mind, tell us what happened. And you had your child restrained, you thought he was safe, what happened in this car crash?

SKEEN: Well, Anton was buckled into a lap-shoulder belt, according to Washington State law. He was 4 years old, probably close to 50 pounds. He and I were in a violent rollover crash. And the seat belt simply didn't hold him in. They found the seat belt still clicked, but Anton was ejected and killed of massive head trauma.

I was still in the seat belt. So I was doing well or better.

ALLEN: Right, you were still severely injured as well.

SKEEN: Yes.

ALLEN: What you did to restrain him, was that the guidelines for someone his age and his weight?

SKEEN: Yes, it was at that time. This was four years ago. We've come a long way since then. And there's much more evidence that the adult seat belt simply does not work for children of that size. It presents and illusion of safety.

ALLEN: From what you've learned, could some sort of booster seat perhaps save your son's life?

SKEEN: It is hard to say. But, the booster seat, which is a light weight simple device, which lifts the child up so the lap- shoulder belt can do its job, would probably have held him in the car. And ejection killed three out of four people. So my hope is that if he had stayed in the car, and the booster seat would have helped with that by keeping the lines of the lap-shoulder belt taut. I mean, a parent likes to hope and a parent needs to know that you've done everything possible. So it's very sad to feel, in retrospect, that we didn't have that tool available to us.

ALLEN: What is your campaign Boost America doing to try to promote more safety and to change laws?

SKEEN: This is -- this is so great. This is new territory for a car manufacturer. It is a coast to coast educational campaign that has a million booster seats given away just to get the ball rolling. Half will go to people buying Fords, half to low-income people.

The other part of it that's really a thrill is that there are educational packets and videos and so on going out to the schools: the pre-schools, the day cares, the elementary schools, that will educate both parents and children to the fact that riding in a booster seat is fun and safe because it lifts kids up so they can see out the window.

ALLEN: But it is still up to parent, correct, to get a booster seat and get it in the car and put in there safely?

SKEEN: I'm sorry, could you repeat that please?

ALLEN: Sure, is it still up to the parent to buy the booster seat? It is not that the car manufacturers aren't giving parents booster seats, or supplying them; are they?

SKEEN: No, not at this point. Maybe at some point in the future. But for right now, my advice to parents is to get out there, go to most major retailers carry them. They are inexpensive. They start at about $19. They are portable. They weigh less than a backpack. These are things that can make the difference between life and death. There isn't anything I wouldn't do to be able to do that myself now and bring Anton back.

ALLEN: Autumn Alexander Skeen, thank you so much for joining us.

SKEEN: My pleasure. Thank you for having us.

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