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TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY SLATER COMMENDS THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S NEW SEAT BELT LAW

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY SLATER COMMENDS THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S NEW SEAT BELT LAW

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
April 30, 1997

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 30, 1997
NHTSA 25-97
Contact:  Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today commended the District of Columbia for enacting a primary enforcement seat belt law that will serve as a model for the nation and increase safety on the streets of the nation's capital.

"While buckling up only takes three quick seconds, seat belts will save nearly 10,000 lives across the country this year," said Secretary Slater. "Our nation's capital is sending a strong message across America by enacting this law and declaring that those who live, work or visit in Washington should take the responsibility to buckle up for life."

The goal of the law in the District of Columbia is to increase seat belt use by 12 to 15 percentage points within a year. The District now has a seat belt use rate of 58 percent, 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

Forty-nine states have laws requiring motorists to use their seat belts, but only 11 have primary seat belt laws like the District of Columbia's which allows law enforcement officers to stop vehicles and issue citations for no other reason than not using seat belts. The remaining 38 have secondary seat belt laws.

The District of Columbia's seat belt law is the first in the United States to contain all the following provisions. It:

  • Requires the driver and all passengers, including those in the back seat, to wear seat belts if they are available;

  • Assesses two points on a violator's driving record;

  • Increases the fine to $50 from $15; and

  • Requires all taxicabs and limousines registered in the District to post information about the new law in their rear windows.

    The new law was enacted on April 9, 1997, and becomes effective Oct. 1, 1997. It is part of a collaborative effort by the District of Columbia Buckle Up Coalition, which is composed of more than 100 community organizations.

    "The benefits of the new primary safety belt law are very important," said Ricardo Martinez, M.D., administrator of the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "The goal of the D.C. Coalition effort is to reach 78 percent usage by 1999. At this rate, we estimate that the District will save three additional lives, prevent 233 injuries and save the District $12 million in medical and other costs associated with motor vehicles crashes each year."

    The District's enactment of a primary seat belt law advances the department's national strategy to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000. The Secretary presented the strategy on April 16 in response to President Clinton's call to increase the number of Americans using their seat belts. By raising seat belt use to 85 percent, the strategy will save 4,200 lives, prevent 102,000 injuries and save $6.7 billion in costs.

    NHTSA estimates that among passenger vehicle occupants over age 4, seat belts saved an estimated 9,797 lives in 1995.



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