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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Receives Recommendations from Blue Ribbon Panel On Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African Americans

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Receives Recommendations from Blue Ribbon Panel On Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African Americans

NHTSA
December 13, 2000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 56-00
Wednesday, December 13, 2000
Contact: NHTSA, Faithia Robertson, (202) 366-9550

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A blue ribbon panel today delivered its report containing 10 recommendations for increasing seat belt use among African Americans to U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater.

"The violence of crashes is color blind, and the best defense for everyone against injury in a car crash is buckling up," Secretary Slater said, commending the blue ribbon panel members for their work. "Safety is President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority, and this report will help us promote among African Americans and other minorities the need to buckle up."

The recommendations, contained in a report entitled Blue Ribbon Panel To Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans: A Report to the Nation called for education, training and improved communication strategies to increase seat belt use among African Americans and urged the American public to address the low seat belt use rates among African Americans as a public health issue.

Secretary Slater said that he was especially pleased that the panel addressed tough issues like the need for primary seat belt laws in states and the procedures for collecting, compiling and analyzing data on traffic stops.

Secretary Slater continued his pledge to work closely with African American leaders involved in federal efforts to promote seat belt use and noted this work is continuing. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday partnered with a church organization, the Congress of National Black Churches, to help educate African Americans about the safety benefits of seat belts and child safety seats. Also, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) is expected to be among the first to act upon the recommendations at its leadership meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 9-10, 2001.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for African American children through age 14 and the second leading killer of young black adults ages 15-24.

According to the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), black male teens travel fewer vehicle miles than their white counterparts, but they are more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash. Seat belt use among African Americans continues to be below the national average and is currently four percentage points lower, an improvement over the 10 percentage point gap that existed in 1996.

With safety as President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority, highway safety figures nationally have improved. The traffic fatality rate decreased from 1.9 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1991 to 1.6 in 1999. Overall seat belt use in the United States increased to 71 percent in 1999, up from 58 percent measured in the first national seat belt use survey completed in 1994.

Much of this increase is attributed to efforts like Buckle Up America and national Operation ABC mobilizations that originated in a national strategy announced in 1997 in response to President Clinton's call to increase seat belt use. Also as part of this national strategy, the country in 1999 -- one year ahead of the target date -- achieved President Clinton's goal of reducing fatalities among children five and under by 15 percent, when traffic deaths in this group decreased to 555 in 1999 from 652 in 1996.

"I am delighted that members of the panel offered their talents to help increase seat belt use in the African American community," said NHTSA Administrator, Dr. Sue Bailey. "With some of America's best minds creating improved approaches to educate the public, we can help save thousands of lives and prevent countless injuries."

The panel members identified 10 strategy recommendations to increase seat belt use among African Americans. The panel's report also urged the American public to take action by addressing as a public health issue the lack of seat belt use in the African American community.

The Blue Ribbon Panel To Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans included an array of distinguished members from the medical, academic, legal, business, athletic, faith-based, law enforcement and activist communities. Honorary members of the task force included U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.; Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Chair and President Emerita, National Council of Negro Women, Inc.; and John Maupin Jr., D.D.S., President of Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn.

Among the panel's 10 recommendations are the following:

  • Increase the availability of safety education, training, expertise, knowledge, special skills, credible research and information about traffic safety issues to African American and other minority communities.
  • Increase the credibility, visibility and attention focused on seat belt use among African Americans.
  • Provide state agencies and legislatures a clear, uniform guide for structuring and enacting comprehensive seat belt laws, including the best elements of laws already enacted, and provisions for the collection, compilation and analysis of data on traffic stops, particularly in conjunction with incidents of rogue behavior by law enforcement officials.

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