For the last 20 years, Fitzgerald Auto Malls has been providing Maryland drivers with complimentary car-seat inspections. Last week, federal, state, and local government officials came together in Rockville to celebrate the dealership’s 50,000th inspection.
Jack Fitzgerald, the dealership chain’s founder and namesake, said the complimentary car inspections – which are offered once per month at various locations in the region – have been an important part of his company’s commitment to community service. He thanked Montgomery County Fire and Rescue and the County Police Department for their support in training dealership employees to provide this service to drivers with small children.
“Our government does a lot of good for us, and this is an example of that,” Fitzgerald said. “We couldn’t do this alone and we are grateful to have the support of the local government and state organizations to promote public safety. For 20 years now, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services and Police have been actively involved at our child safety seat events and I thank them for their support.”
According to National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy, nearly 75 percent of all car seats on the road are not properly installed, creating a need for private businesses like Fitzgerald to help keep drivers and their children safe on the road.
“More than 1,200 kids die on our roads annually in this country,” Homendy said. “Our goal is to bring that number to zero…we need trained and certified experts like this team to make sure children are secured in their cars.”
Monty Crown of Montgomery Fire and Rescue, who was on hand at the event, said that Fire and Rescue personnel put all Fitzgerald employees through a three-day training program when they begin working at one of the chain’s dealerships. All Fitzgerald inspections are conducted by two people, who work in tandem to make sure the seats are properly installed according to a 33-point checklist created by SafeKids Worldwide, a child-safety advocacy group.
Fitzgerald vice president Rob Smith said his dealership once inspected 777 car seats in one day at their Gaithersburg location, and he told Bethesda Magazine that the program costs the chain more than $30,000 annually. Torine Creppy, president of SafeKids Worldwide, said that investment has not only been critical for the drivers Fitzgerald serves directly, but as an example for other dealers on how to effectively and productively provide this vital service.
“We’ve used this dealership as a model for activating programs like this around the country,” Creppy said. “We’ve been in this fight with Fitzgerald for 20 years; [inspecting] 50,000 car seats is an amazing achievement.”
State Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Kensington), one of the lawmakers who spoke at the event, said the Fitzgerald car seat program was personally deeply important to him. He recounted a time he was driving through a parking lot with his two young children, when he was involved in a collision. His kids’ car seats, he said, had recently been inspected by Fitzgerald employees, and they protected his children in the accident.
“Those car seats saved their lives,” Waldstreicher said. “Jack Fitzgerald saved their lives, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Other elected officials on hand for the celebration included Del. Al Carr (D-Kensington) and Montgomery County Councilman Andrew Friedson (D-Bethesda).Download Bulletin PDF