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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Cautions Holiday Travelers About Safety

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Cautions Holiday Travelers About Safety

November 23, 1999

DOT 194-99

Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Contacts: NHTSA, Tim Hurd, (202) 366-9550
FAA: Rebecca Trexler, 202-267-8521
Coast Guard: Jack O'Dell, 202-267-6491
BTS: Carole Zok, 202-366-5694

As Americans set out to celebrate Thanksgiving with a long weekend, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today urged everyone to travel safely by buckling up, driving sober, heeding traffic signs and being patient with delays.

"Commonsense safety precautions and planning ahead will reduce risk and increase the margin of safety, which is President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. "If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, please buckle up, observe traffic signs, share the road and avoid drinking and driving." >

Estimates from the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicate that Thanksgiving and the days associated with it are some of the most heavily traveled of the year in terms of trips of 100 miles or more away from home. In 1995, the latest year from which statistics are available, the Sunday after Thanksgiving was the most heavily traveled of the year overall - ahead of Easter, the day after Christmas, and Labor Day. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the third busiest air travel day and the twelfth busiest day for travel by car and other types of personal vehicle. Over the five-day Thanksgiving period (Wednesday to Sunday), about 83 percent of long distance trips were by personal vehicle and 15 percent by air.

According to the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 598 people were killed on the nation's highways during Thanksgiving weekend last year, with nearly half (48 percent) alcohol-related. The total number of people killed during Thanksgiving weekend last year was the highest in 10 years.

NHTSA research indicates that safety belts reduce the risk of death in a crash by about half. The risk is reduced for front-seat passengers in cars by 45 percent and for occupants of pickups, vans and sport utility vehicles by 60 percent. Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has shown a reduction in fatal injuries by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars; the percentages are slightly higher in light trucks.

The Clinton-Gore Administration's aggressive efforts to increase seat belt use and combat drinking and driving continue. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which President Clinton signed into law on July 9, 1998, includes more than $1.2 billion for safety incentive grants. This includes more than $700 million in incentive grants for states over six years to enact and enforce tough laws to prevent drunk driving and more than 500 million in incentive grants to states over five years to increase seat belt use.

When it comes to travel by air, Secretary Slater reminded everyone, because of stringent security and anticipated holiday crowds, to arrive at least an hour before flight time for domestic destinations and two hours early for international flights. He also offered the following additional advice:

* Because of strengthened security measures at airports, if you are flying, remember to control your luggage at all times, refuse to carry packages from strangers, report any suspicious or unattended packages, bring a government-issued ID, answer truthfully when asked questions about your luggage, and be aware that both your carry-on and checked bags are subject to inspection.
* Be aware that strengthened security also means that airport parking restrictions will be strictly enforced and unattended vehicles may be towed.
* In an airport, do not joke about having a bomb or firearm in your possession; penalties can be severe, including prison time and fines.
* Plan your trip. Allow plenty of time. Drive friendly, avoid speeding and other aggressive driving behavior, and stop to rest if you become sleepy. Be sure to carefully observe warnings, especially railroad grade crossing signs and signals.
* If you are boating, ensure that everyone aboard is using an approved life jacket.


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