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Making Cars Safe For Kids

Last week, as she staggered from a horrendous car crash, Christine Guarino caught her first glimpse of her son Steven.

He wasn't moving. Steven was bloodied, but he and his brother Colin survived. Both had been securely strapped in car safety seats.

"If it wasn't for the car seats, they wouldn't be here," said a weeping Guarino.

Acting on the belief that too few parents use safety seats, President Clinton Saturday ordered mandatory changes in how the seats are designed, reports CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

"All too often, car seats don't protect our children as well as they should," Mr. Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "Anyone who has struggled to get a car seat to fit snugly into a back seat knows exactly what I'm talking about."

He noted that more than 70 percent of all children riding in car seats are at risk because the seats are not properly installed.

Mr. Clinton used his address to endorse the recommendations of a panel of medical and safety experts, seat manufacturers and consumer groups.

"By the year 2000, the Department of Transportation will require every safety seat to have three standard attachments designed to fit three standard anchors in the back seat of every car," Mr. Clinton said. "With this new rule, and with these three simple attachments, we can save lives and prevent up to 3,000 injuries a year."

The rules are intended to help parents avoid the struggle to cinch the seat with a seat belt. A second goal is to avoid the confusion that results when using seats or cars of different designs.

The design involves installation of a metal bar behind the rear seat to serve as anchor to toddlers' seats.

Car makers and seat makers have accepted the new design. The seats will be phased in over the next three years. Yet it won't make children safer until more parents like Christine Guarino decide to use them.