February 14, 2006 08:00 AM

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta made an example of Britney Spears on Monday, citing her as an example of what not to do with a child in the car.

“Recent photos of Britney Spears driving with her infant son on her lap are troubling,” Mineta said at an event at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to mark the start of Child Passenger Safety Week and announce $25 million in new federal funding to states that pass and enforce new or tougher booster-seat laws, the Associated Press reports.

“And while Ms. Spears has acknowledged her mistake,” said Mineta, “her actions still send the wrong message to millions of her fans.”

After telling PEOPLE last week that she “instinctively took measures to get my baby and me out of harm’s way” when confronted by aggressive paparazzi in Malibu, Spears later admitted that she “made a mistake” by driving her SUV with her 4-month-old son, Sean Preston, sitting on her lap – instead of in his car seat, as required by California law.

“I made a mistake and so it is what it is, I guess,” Spears, 24, said in an interview with Access Hollywood that aired Thursday.

Pressing the issue of safety, Minetta added: “Each year, over 53,000 kids are needlessly injured in crashes. If all of these children had been riding in a booster seat, it’s possible that thousands of them would have escaped their crashes virtually unharmed.”

Mineta said children roughly from about age 4 to age 8, as long as they are under 4’9″, should be placed in car seats.

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