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Tennis Stars Venus and Serena Williams Join U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater In Urging Motorists to "Buckle Up"

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Tennis Stars Venus and Serena Williams Join U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater In Urging Motorists to "Buckle Up"

December 21, 1999

Tuesday, December 21, 1999
Contact: Belinda C. Rawls
Telephone: 202-366-9550
NHTSA 62-99

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today welcomed tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation in efforts to persuade motorists to use seat belts and unveiled new "Buckle Up America!" television and radio public service announcements (PSA) featuring the Williams sisters.

"The Williams sisters are among the most powerful voices in popular culture today and can have a great positive impact on people, influencing them to make responsible choices," Secretary Slater said. "I welcome this support from Venus and Serena and their parents in promoting seat belts and improved safety, which is President Clinton’s and Vice President Gores’s highest transportation priority."

The new "Williams Family: Tennis is A Game, Your Life is Not, Buckle Up" television and radio PSAs are part of a comprehensive public education campaign by the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and its partners. In addition to PSAs, the Buckle Up America! campaign also will receive photos of the Williams sisters for public education efforts such as posters, exhibit boards, brochures and other promotional material.

Among passenger car occupants over four years old, seat belts saved more than an estimated 11,000 lives last year. According to NHTSA, seat belts are the most effective safety device in passenger cars and could have saved additional lives if more motorists had used them. NHTSA said that more than 20,000 lives could have been saved in 1998 if all passenger vehicle occupants had used seat belts.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have called on all Americans to always wear seat belts and has adopted a goal to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by the end of 2000 and 90 percent by 2005. The seat belt use rate now in the United States is about 70 percent. Reaching 85 percent would prevent about 4,200 deaths and 102,000 injuries annually; achieving 90 percent would prevent more than 5,500 deaths and 132,000 injuries annually.

Passenger vehicle occupants 10 to 24 years old involved in fatal crashes had the lowest seat belt use rate in 1998, according to NHTSA. According to a study on seat belt use by Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tenn., and General Motors Corp., African American youth are 50 percent less likely to be buckled than whites or Hispanics. The Meharry study also observed that 100 percent use by African Americans could save as many as 1,300 lives per year and prevent 26,000 injuries at a cost savings of nearly $2.6 billion.


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