Project Safe Child is a cooperative effort between the Office of Child Health Advocacy at Children's Hospital and the D.C. Department of Transportation designed to alert the public to the need for proper child restraint systems in automobiles.

Each year in the United States, approximately 1,000 children under five years old are killed in automobile crashes. More than 50,000 are injured. Many injuries and deaths could be prevented if parents would use good child restraints or car seats whenever their children ride in a car. In fact, nine out of ten children killed in auto accidents could have been saved by the correct use of child restraints.

To achieve public awareness of the problem, three major services are being provided to Our Town through technical assistance, a resource materials center and a child restraint loaner program.

Community participation in Project Safe Child was initiated in October when nearly 200 civic leaders, parents and teachers attended a forum to sensitize the community to the problem of motor vehicle related accidents and the possiblilities for successful prevention through the use of proper child restraint systems. Another seminar on the same subject for community members was held in November.

To consolidate available information for the community, a Resource Material Center was established in the Presidential Building, 415 12th St. NW., Room 226. The Center contains printed and audio-visual materials on child auto and traffic safety for use by the general public as well as professionals.It is designed to encourage the selection and utilization of child safety material. Also, "mini-resource centers," limited to displays of Project Safe-Child and its activities, will be installed at D.C. hospitals.

Finally, to encourage residents to use child restraints, an infant loaner seat program is about to be started by the D.C. Department of Transportation at the end of this month. These seats have been shown to reduce injuries and deaths among young children during auto accidents.

"We are ordering the seats now and we already have about 20 requests for them," said Maurice Veal, head of the Project Safe Child Office. "We're getting 500 of the infant seats so there will be plenty for the community."

Veal's phone number is 724-4585. He offered the following tips on child car safety and restraint systems.

The safest position for a child to ride is in the back center section of the car in a properly installed restraint system. Children under four years of age should not use the adult safety belt. Adult lap belts put too much pressure on the areas of a child where the belts are strapped.

Restraint systems must be worn each time when traveling. If safety restraints are not available, the child is safer in the back seat of the car than in the front. The arms of an adult are not safe to hold a child when an accident occurs.

Children should not be allowed to stand in seats without protection. If they become upset while driving, it is best to pull over and get them calmed before proceeding. Do not allow children to have suckers or objects in their mouths while riding. A sudden stop can lodge this object in the child's throat and cause injury.

Another public program coordinated by the Office of Child Health Advocacy is the Committeed for Lead Elimination Action in the District (L.E.A.D.), a consortium of over 30 private and public agencies and private citizens who have pledged to eliminate the problem of lead poisoning in Washington.

Referring physicians and other health professionals may consult the hospital coordinator for the L.E.A.D. committee regarding any aspect of lead poisoning -- testing, hospitalization, housing, community action, committee participation.

Lead testing is done at many area hospitals, and is also provided by Children's Hospital's Ambulatory Clinic Teams. Suspected cases of lead poisoning or potential situations can be reported to the Committee for L.E.A.D. at 745-3029.

Children's Hospital National Medical Center is dedicated to the service of all children, regardless of race, creed, color or the parents' ability to pay for necessary pediatric care. Known as the hospital with the "built-in deficit," Children's provides millions of dollars worth of free or low cost care to needy children annually.