It is no larger than a luggage tag, but the detailed information is far more precious than just the name and address of a traveler. Here, the picture of a small boy stares out through the plastic case. He illustrates the importance of safety; he is a reminder of how, without a moment's hesitation, fate can be so cruel.
The identification tag bearing the photo, along with the child's name and medical information, clasps around the handle of an automobile child safety seat. In the case of an accident in which the driver is unconscious, the plastic tag can identify the child to police and rescue workers.
"This is mainly just a way to let the rescue workers know right away who the child in the seat is," said John Beere, one of many people behind the effort in Prince William County. "This is just one of those things where we heard about the problem and knew there was a way to fix it."
Beere, along with other members of local Kiwanis Clubs, spent last weekend at the Manassas Fall Jubilee taking digital pictures of local children in an effort to instill precautions in the already safety-conscious parents, he said. The Kiwanis Clubs have made about a dozen tags so far, Beere said. The tags are available at no cost.
Other counties in the state and nation have begun similar projects, which for the local Kiwanis Clubs has been a success and applauded by local authorities.
Fire and rescue workers, along with Prince William County police officials and county hospital employees, hailed the effort as a creative means to identifying children involved in accidents.
Besides a current photo, the identification tags include the child's gender, date of birth and medical history. On the back is the name of a parent or guardian, address, phone number and emergency contact.
"It really is a wonderful idea," said Cheryl Neverman, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official.
Though no statistics are available to show how many children have suffered because of misidentification, or no identification, Neverman said the need for such a project arose because of information that "cropped up anecdotally around the country."
A few years ago, Beere and other Kiwanis members began distributing small information stickers that could be placed on child safety seats. The group gave out about 120,000, Beere said.
Though that project was a success, NHTSA officials had trouble recommending it.
"The problem with the stickers is that it stayed with the seat even if the child didn't," Neverman said. "And that was causing a problem."
Karen Ruble, community safety coordinator with the Prince William Hospital, said that although she hasn't seen the new identification tags, she knows they will be beneficial over time. "If about half of all accidents result in the driver being left unconscious and the child not, then this will definitely save a lot of lives."
For information on the identification tags, contact John Beere of the Kiwanis Club of Manassas at 703-369-6162.