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100 Years After First Pedestrian Traffic Fatality: U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Focuses Nation's Attention on Preventing Child Pedestrian Injuries, Fatalities

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American Government

100 Years After First Pedestrian Traffic Fatality: U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Focuses Nation's Attention on Preventing Child Pedestrian Injuries, Fatalities

NHTSA
September 13, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 43-99
Monday, September 13, 1999
Contact: NHTSA, Cathy Hickey, (202) 366-9550

100 Years After First Pedestrian Traffic Fatality
U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Focuses Nation's Attention on Preventing Child Pedestrian Injuries, Fatalities

On the 100th anniversary of the first traffic fatality, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater focused on the safety of children as millions headed back to school this month.

"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are concerned for the safety of all Americans, especially children, and have made safety their highest transportation priority," said U.S. TransportationSecretary Rodney E. Slater. "As children walk to school or school bus stops now that they've returned to classes, alert, smart drivers can help prevent crashes that kill and injure children and pedestrians of all ages."

On Sept. 13, 1899, the first pedestrian traffic fatality in the United States, Henry H. Bliss, a 68-year-old real estate broker, was knocked down and run over at Central Park West and 74th Street in New York City. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died. Since then, automobile crashes have killed more than 700,000 pedestrians - more than the number of Americans killed in both World Wars.

Each year thousands of pedestrians are killed or injured in the U.S. In 1998, motor vehicle crashes killed 5,220 pedestrians and injured 69,000 others. On average, a traffic crash kills a pedestrian every 101 minutes and injures one every eight minutes.

In 1998, 580 pedestrians ages 15 and under were killed and another 21,000 were injured. One-fifth of all traffic fatalities among people under age15 are pedestrians.

Millions of children walk to school or their bus stop and every year school buses transport millions of children to and from school and school-related activities. As a result, child pedestrian crashes are a serious traffic safety problem. In fact, many more children are killed as pedestrians than on school buses. Of children killed in school bus crashes, more than three times as many are killed as pedestrians around the bus than are killed as occupants of buses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminded parents and motorists that immaturity of children puts them at greater risk of being involved in a traffic-related pedestrian crash.

"Children are not small adults," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "They don't have the skills to handle traffic-related environments. A child versus a car is an unfair fight that the child always loses. Children rely on adults for safety."

In an effort to reduce traffic-related child pedestrian crashes this school season and always, NHTSA offers parents and motorists the following safety tips:

Remember, children are physically different from adults:

* Children are short. This makes it difficult for them to see motorists and for motorists to see them - especially around obstructions like parked or moving cars, buses and bushes.
* Children have underdeveloped peripheral vision - it is approximately one-third narrower than an adults, so a child won't see a motorist approaching from the right or left as soon as an adult will.
* Children have difficulty judging speed, spatial relations and distance. They believe cars can stop instantly.
* Children often think if they see the driver, the driver sees them.

Children must be supervised at all times:

* Children are not small adults. Until they are at least 10 or 11 years old, they don't have the skills to handle traffic-related environments.
* Always set a good example. Stop at the curb; look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for traffic in all directions; cross when it is clear; and keep looking for cars as you cross.
* When driving in school zones, near play areas, or in neighborhoods where children might be playing, always expect a child.
* Children should wear fluorescent clothing in the daytime. At night they should carry flashlights or wear reflective materials.

Children need safe routes and play areas:

* Young children need safer places away from traffic to play, such as fenced playgrounds and yards.
* Children also need safe ways to get to school, sports events and stores. Slower traffic, more crosswalks and crossing guards, nearby parks and more sidewalks with wider surfaces and unobstructed views help everyone in the neighborhood.
* Help your child assess the "walkability" of their neighborhood, and chart the safest route to their school, the park, or a friend's house. NHTSA's Walkability Checklist (also available in Spanish) is available to help parents and children Copies can be ordered directly from NHTSA's web page or downloaded at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

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