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Secretary Slater Announces Another Year of Progress for Highway Safety

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Secretary Slater Announces Another Year of Progress for Highway Safety

NHTSA
September 6, 2000

(Rev. 9/7/2000. Adds alcohol-related fatalities)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 37-00
Wednesday, September 6, 2000
Contact: NHTSA, Rae Tyson, (202) 366-9550

Child, Alcohol-Related Deaths Are Down; Seat Belt Use Is Up

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped again to a new historical low and represented a smaller percentage of the total traffic fatalities, 38 percent in 1999 compared to 39 percent in 1998. Secretary Slater said that later today President Clinton will send a letter to Congress strongly urging them to adopt .08 blood alcohol content as the law of the land.

Secretary Slater made the announcement with Members of Congress and the transportation industry in a salute to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for 20 years of accomplishment in helping to reduce alcohol-related crashes and fatalities.

"America's highways are safer than ever and I am encouraged by the progress we've made," Secretary Slater said. "These encouraging statistics reflect continuing, steady improvement in highway safety under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, for whom safety is the highest transportation priority."

"Last year, 234 fewer Americans died in alcohol-related crashes," said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Sue Bailey. "That is 234 American families who are not grieving, children who are not missing parents, or schools who are not disrupted by tragedy. Nonetheless, alcohol-related fatalities and injuries remain intolerably high."

Secretary Slater also said that seat belt use has reached an all time high of 71 percent nationwide this year, another steady improvement on an upward trend from the 58 percent measured in the first national seat belt use survey completed in 1994.

In announcing results of a new seat belt survey and the 1999 Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) assessment, Secretary Slater also said that President Clinton's goal of reducing fatalities among children five and under by 15 percent, set in 1997, was met in 1999, one year ahead of the President's target date. Fatalities in this group decreased to 555 in 1999 from 652 in 1996.

The 1999 FARS assessment by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that, while population, total registered vehicles, and miles traveled all increased in 1999, the fatality rate remained virtually unchanged from 1998. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.6 in both 1998 and 1999.

Total fatalities in 1999 were 41,611 compared to 41,501 in 1998. The total number of persons injured in crashes increased slightly from an estimated 3.19 million in 1998 to 3.24 million in 1999.

Secretary Slater credited the continuing hard work and support of the public-private partnerships for another year of progress. The USDOT is a partner with the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, a coalition of government, auto manufacturers, insurance companies, safety organizations, and professional associations who, in turn, work with state and local governments, law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and others to increase seat belt and child safety seat use.

The FARS for 1999 also indicates that:

  • Seat belts and child safety seats clearly save lives. Fifty-seven percent of passenger car and light truck occupants killed in 1999 were unbelted.
  • Pedestrian deaths dropped to 4,906 in 1999 from 5,228 in 1998.
  • Alcohol-related fatalities dropped from 16,020 in 1998 to 15,786 in 1999.
  • Alcohol-related fatalities among youths ages 15 - 20 increased slightly from 2,219 in 1998 to 2,238 in 1999.
  • Fatalities involving large trucks dropped slightly from 5,395 in 1998 to 5,362 in 1999.
  • Passenger car fatalities dropped 1.8 percent to 20,818 in 1999 compared to 1998 figures. In contrast, occupant fatalities in light trucks and vans (LTVs) rose 5 percent.
  • For LTVs, which include sport utility vehicles, deaths from single vehicle rollovers increased 8.4 percent in 1999 to 4,352 fatalities.
  • Motorcycle deaths were up 7.8 percent from 2,294 in 1998 to 2,472 in 1999.
  • Speed-related fatalities increased slightly from 12,509 in 1998 to 12,628 in 1999.
  • School bus occupant fatalities increased from 6 in 1998 to 10 in 1999, continuing the overall average of approximately 10 per year for the past several years. Total school bus-related fatalities increased from 122 in 1998 to 154 in 1999. School bus-related fatalities result from incidents around school buses and do not include school bus occupants.

    The new survey results from NHTSA's June 2000 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) also found that:

  • Seat belt use increased in all categories compared to the previous 1999 NOPUS study.
  • Seat belt use increased in all geographic regions of the country. The largest increases were in the Midwest, which was up more than 8 percentage points.
  • Seat belt use increased among occupants in all classes of vehicles: passenger cars, pickups, vans and SUVs.
  • Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws; they averaged 77 percent seat belt use, while states without primary laws averaged 63 percent. This substantial difference shows dramatically the benefits of primary belt use laws.

    Other recent seat belt use surveys have recorded dramatic increases in some states with new primary laws or highly visible law enforcement or both. Examples include:

  • Michigan, which recorded seat belt use at 84 percent, an increase of nearly 14 percentage points in less than six months after the passage of its primary law.
  • New York, where the State Police reported seat belt use at 86 percent, up 5 percent over a similar 1999 study, as a result of highly visible, state-wide enforcement of a primary law.

    NHTSA collects crash statistics from the 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual FARS assessment. The final report will be available later this year. Additional information is available on the Intranet at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov./

    The margin of error on the NOPUS seat belt survey is plus or minus three percentage points.

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