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Seat Them Safely: Reporting spurs community project

Fellowship Story Showcase

Seat Them Safely: Reporting spurs community project

Picture of Bob  Ortega

This series, originally published by the Arizona Republic, was produced by the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and the National Health Journalism Fellowship, programs of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism. Other pieces in this series include:

Majority of parents don't install car seats correctly

What you need to know about car-seat safety

5 most common mistakes with car or booster seats

Seat them safely: Car-seat check events

How to donate to the seat them safely campaign

What kind of car seat should I use?

Augustine Lopez with the Tuscon Police Department with a child’s car seat at a Child Passenger Safety car seat check in June. (Photo: Rachael Le Goubin/The Republic)
The Arizona Republic
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

By Randy Lovely and Nicole Carroll

[Click here for SPANISH VERSION]

Some observant reporting by The Arizona Republic’s Bob Ortega led to a Valley-wide project that could save lives.

While working along the U.S.-Mexico border, Ortega noticed what seemed to be a lot of Hispanic children riding in cars who weren’t in child seats or booster seats.

His initial research confirmed that in Arizona, Hispanic parents secure their children properly less often than other parents, and that Hispanic children are more likely to be killed or injured in vehicle accidents.

He proposed a project to explore why and how to address this problem, for which he was granted a National Health Journalism Fellowship at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

As he continued his research, it became apparent to Ortega and his editors that it would not be enough to just report the problem. We needed to seek solutions.

The Republic invited a number of community groups in for further discussion. We learned that there were cultural barriers in the Hispanic community about using car seats. We learned that there were a number of programs ongoing to improve awareness among all Arizonans about the need to use car seats. And we learned that there was still a great need for more information, particularly in Spanish, and more car seats.

The result of those discussions was the creation of the Siéntelos Seguros campaign — Seat Them Safely.

Among those joining The Republic and in the campaign are our Spanish-language publication La Voz, Univision, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Maricopa Integrated Health System, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the Phoenix Fire Department, the Phoenix Police Department, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, AAA of Arizona, SafeKids Maricopa and Friendly House.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has agreed to coordinate the campaign. And Torres Multicultural Communications of Phoenix created the theme and designed the logo.

This is not a one-day effort. All partners have agreed to work for the foreseeable future to boost awareness among Hispanics and immigrants who haven’t been reached by longstanding child-seat programs in the state.

We begin our coverage today with the first of three installments on the need for information about increased car-seat safety. You can read our stories online at and at We also list resources for more information, including upcoming training sessions and car-seat giveaways.

Univision will host a phone bank on Monday night, while experts answer viewers’ questions about car-seat installation and safety.

You can participate, too, by making a tax-deductible donation for new car seats through the BHHS Legacy Foundation or by donating your used car seats.

And your help can make a difference. In April, Destiny Wiedeke was driving with her two young children on 59th Avenue when another driver ran through a stop sign and plowed into her car, which flipped over and landed back on its wheels.

Six weeks earlier, Destiny had attended a car-seat safety check held by the Glendale Fire Department to make sure her car seats were properly installed.

Even though Destiny’s car was traveling 40 miles per hour, neither she nor her children were seriously hurt.

Help us help more parents like Destiny.

Lovely is Senior Vice President, News and Audience Development; Carroll is Vice President/News and Executive Editor.

Seat Them Safely Partners

The Seat Them Safely campaign has become a true community enterprise. The list of partners and supporters:

    • AAA Arizona
    • Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    • The Arizona Republic
    • Friendly House
    • Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
    • The BHHS Legacy Foundation
    • Maricopa Integrated Health System
    • Phoenix Children’s Hospital
    • Phoenix Fire Department
    • Phoenix Police Department
    • The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
    • Safe Kids Maricopa
    • Torres Multicultural Communications
    • Univision
    • La Voz