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Transportation Secretary Slater Calls on Diversity Forum To Help Reduce Traffic Injuries

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Transportation Secretary Slater Calls on Diversity Forum To Help Reduce Traffic Injuries

February 24, 1999

NHTSA 06-99
February 24, 1999
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

MIAMI--Continuing a top-priority effort to improve highway safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today called on a diverse forum composed of more than 80 minority groups and traditional safety organizations to help reduce traffic deaths and injuries, especially among minorities.

Secretary Slater told the nation's first National Diversity Forum that he would make traffic safety for minorities a priority agenda item for the March 2-3 National Transportation Safety Conference announced earlier in the week.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority, and he has challenged us to make our communities safer, more livable and more united," Secretary Slater said. "Through this forum and a united effort to bring about safe traffic practices among all Americans, we will save lives, prevent injuries and help achieve goals set by the President."

In conjunction with the forum, Secretary Slater and representatives of the groups at the forum signed a memorandum of understanding recognizing the toll of traffic crashes on American families, citing diversity as America's strength, and committing themselves to work together to increase seat belt and child safety seat use and to decrease drunk driving.

Research summarized in a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that Native Americans die in car crashes at rates 2-3 times that of other ethnicities, and that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics through the age of 24 and for African-Americans through the age of 14.

According to surveys conducted by NHTSA, seat belt use among African-Americans is 10 percentage points lower than the national average. One survey also showed that 42 percent of minority children are at greater risk because they are improperly placed in child safety seats, while 15 percent of white infants are improperly placed in child safety seats.

Another study showed that, per mile traveled, Hispanic and African-American teenagers are 2-3 times as likely as their white counterparts to die in traffic crashes.

"Because this safety problem disproportionately affects the minority community, we are meeting with the leaders of some of the nation's most prestigious organizations to work with us on life-saving solutions," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D.

He said that the agenda for the National Diversity Forum included extensive discussions of issues that concerned minorities, including differential enforcement, especially as a result of primary seat belt laws.

NHTSA is continuing to study whether primary seat belts laws, which allow law enforcement officers to stop motorists who are not using seat belts, result in more minority motorists being pulled aside by police. Preliminary findings from a three-state study by NHTSA indicate that primary seat belt laws do not disproportionately affect minorities, but NHTSA is working with the Police Foundation on another study looking at the relationship between primary seat belt laws and police harassment of minority motorists.

The National Diversity Forum Advisory Committee included the Afro-American Newspaper; Congress of National Black Churches; The National Hispano/Latino Community Prevention Network; Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse, Inc.; National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics; National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council, Inc.; National Council of La Raza; NHTSA; Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration; and 100% Drug Free Clubs.


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