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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
May 19, 1997

Tuesday, May 19, 1997
NHTSA 31-97
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550


U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today launched Buckle Up, America! Week at an "Operation ABC: Mobilizing America to Buckle Up Children" safety checkpoint which was established to encourage parents to buckle up their children. ABC means "Air Bag Safety: Buckle Everyone; Children in the Back."

He was on hand to support the Air Bag Safety Campaign's Operation ABC and the officers representing more than 1,000 state and municipal law enforcement agencies as they work to mobilize America to buckle up children --and themselves.

"This event is a major step toward meeting President Clinton's goal of increasing the use of seat belts," Secretary Slater said. "Use of child restraints in vehicles is the law in all 50 states. That's why everyone should buckle up and childen should sit in the back."

Buckle Up, America! Week, May 18-26, is part of a national campaign to increase use of life-saving occupant protection devices. Under Secretary Slater's direction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently developed a national initiative to build and use public private partnerships, enact stronger state laws, encourage active enforcement of existing laws and educate the public to achieve these goals:

  • Increase national safety belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000 and to 90 percent by 2005 (from 68 percent in 1996);
  • Reduce traffic-related fatalities among children under 5 years old by 15 percent by the year 2000 and by 25 percent by 2005 (from 615 fatalities in 1995).

    According to research compiled by NHTSA, lap/shoulder safety belts, when used, can reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. From 1982 through 1995, an estimated 75,087 lives were saved by safety belts. Despite this progress, more than 1,800 children under 15 years old die as passengers in motor vehicles and another 286,000 are injured seriously every year in crashes.

    NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D., reminded drivers and front seat passengers to buckle up and sit as far back as possible from the steering wheel or dashboard to enable airbags to deploy safely in a crash. Lap/shoulder belts can help secure front seat occupants during an air bag deployment.

    To minimize the risk of injury from the steering wheel, dashboards or from the air bag, Dr. Martinez urged motorists to:

  • Always buckle up. Safety belts are the first and most important protection against crash injury of any type.
  • Sit as far back as safely possible. Airbags provide maximum protection when they have ample room to deploy.
  • Put infants and children in the rear seat and make sure they are properly restrained in a child safety seat or restraint appropriate for their size.

    Buckle Up, America! Week coincides with National EMS Week to recognize approximately 750,000 Emergency Medical Service providers nationwide who deliver lifesaving emergency medical care. May 18-24 is National Bicycle Safety Week during which safety officials are urging bicyclists to use helmets.

    Members of the public also are invited to visit the NHTSA website, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov, to learn more about these events and other highway safety topics.

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