Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Tombrello.
Stephanie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 1970, with a 4-month-old daughter, I learned that using a crash-tested safety seat correctly could protect my baby from injury in a car crash and that this was the #1 cause of death and serious injury ensnaring children. I looked into the field and within 2 years had persuaded others to work on preventing injuries of children… By 1980, CA Office of Traffic Safety recognized my involvement and asked me to help set up a state conference. In January 1980, SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. (then L A Area Child Passenger Safety Assn.) was formed by 15 L A area advocates.
In 1990, when national organizations in child passenger safety were closing, our organization changed our name to make it more welcoming to those around the country who wanted good technical and advocacy information.
By then, my petition to require shoulder-lap belts in the rear seats of vehicles had been adopted by the U.S. Government. Over the years, our organization and I have been able to participate in national, state, and local programs and legislative and regulatory efforts to protect children, leading to an ongoing reduction in the tragedies. Pediatric programs never can end as a new parent is born every day.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Funding is always a major issue because many believe that government covers this field completely. We have been fortunate to obtain grants and thus, to provide the newest information and continue programs, such as our Safe Ride Helpline, that offer help locally and nationally. For 37 years, we were able to find donated office space but now for the past year, we have had to pay rent and for communication services, adding overhead costs, never covered by grants in this field.
We now are looking for colleagues to restart the recycling program, ended due to the downturn in recycling overall, and to encourage consideration of improving our state law (for us and as an encouragement for other states) to explicitly cover children up to 10-12 years old to require safety boosters unless the children pass the 5-Step Test for safety belt fit. The law implicitly covers that; however, most professionals and parents don’t notice and focus on age 8. Our data, supported by the findings reported in several nationally recognized research papers, show that few children fit until those ages. We have helped to change the recommendations of national programs; now the laws, the most effective public health approach, again shown by research studies, to changing parental behavior, need to be revised for the better.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. – what should we know?
SBS USA is known for its history of technical excellence; for recognizing the needs of children and families, for being inclusive in our outlook, for teaching those who can reach into every community. We have received awards reflecting this over the years, from my 1983 Award for Public Service from National Highway Traffic Safety Association to the most recent one, inclusion in the initial Hall of Fame devised by the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety this year. We have had national impact by changing and preserving federal regulations, through petition and through Congress, which benefits children everywhere; by working to craft and improve state legislation and offer statewide services to help advocates through California, and of course, because we are sited in Los Angeles County, our hands-on programs, such as our Educator Workshops and Speakers’ Bureau, and much of our mass media communication is grounded in this area. We are proudly focused on technical results so we are not swayed by donations or other support to tout a particular product or company. Thus, I believe we are seen as an impartial resource. At the same time, we are very proud to manage the tether anchor retrofit program nationally for Toyota/Lexus; we enable families with older vehicles to have them retrofitted without paying the typical charges from dealers but receiving the service underwritten by Toyota/Lexus. The program, started in 2008, serves customers in every state but Hawaii. Not only do we manage it but also, we provide a tailored packet to each family to help them avoid incorrect use, which afflicts 90% of the families transporting children.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Technical excellence; impartiality; seeking the newest information; reaching out to every part of the community.
And we try to give the kind of personal service that today is often lacking.
- We do offer memberships with various special resources, starting at $35/year.
- Website: www.carseat.org
- Phone: 800/745-SAFE;
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.