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Transportation Secretary Slater Hails Increased Seat Belt Use In National Capital Region

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Transportation Secretary Slater Hails Increased Seat Belt Use In National Capital Region

NHTSA
November 23, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 77-98
November 23, 1998
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today praised motorists in the National Capital Region for their increased use of seat belts and joined law enforcement officers in a nationwide campaign stressing the need for everyone, especially children, to buckle up.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority, and this good news from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia shows that more motorists understand the importance of using seat belts," Secretary Slater said. "By enforcing seat belt and child safety seat laws--making sure that children are buckled up--law enforcement officers will save lives and prevent injuries here and throughout the nation."

Secretary Slater made the announcement in Washington, D.C., during the kickoff of the Operation ABC Mobilization--America Buckles Up Children.

According to the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the District of Columbia raised its seat belt use in 1998 from 66 percent to 82 percent; Maryland, from 71 to 83 percent; and Virginia, from 67 to 73.6 percent. The 1997 national average seat belt use rate was 69 percent. California leads the nation in seat belt use with 90 percent. These four states were among the first in the nation to report their 1998 seat belt use rates to the NHTSA.

The department's participation the Operation ABC Mobilization--America Buckles Up Children--amplifies an Administration national strategy, announced by President Clinton in April 1997, to save lives and prevent injuries by increasing the use of seat belts and child safety seats. The Presidential initiative calls for an increase in seat belt use to 85 percent by 2000 and to 90 percent by 2005, and a 15 percent reduction in child fatalities by 2000 and 25 percent by 2005.

The national strategy emphasizes personal responsibility for buckling up and properly securing all children riding in motor vehicles and employs a four-point plan to achieve its goals.

The plan calls for active, high-visibility enforcement campaigns, like the Operation ABC Mobilization beginning today; public-private partnerships to promote correct use of seat belts and child safety seats; state laws for "primary" law enforcement and stronger child passenger safety; and effective community-based public education measures.

Last month, the department named 38 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to share $53 million in incentive grants for increasing their seat belt use. The grants are authorized by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which President Clinton signed June 9 and which provides up to $500 million in incentive grants to states over five years to increase seat belt use.

Child safety seats each year save the lives of more than 300 children under five years old, and seat belts save more than 10,000 lives in America each year.

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