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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater


September 12, 2000

NHTSA 38-00
Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Contact: NHTSA, Faithia Robertson, (202) 366-9550

SILVER SPRING, Md.-With the new school year underway, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today reminded students, parents, and teachers at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring to use caution on the way to and from school and told them of the five dangers that kids face and the top ten steps they can take to help keep safe.

"Safety is everyone's responsibility, and nowhere is that more true than on the way to and from school," Secretary Slater said. "Following the rules of the road, including using seat belts and wearing bicycle helmets, is most important in reducing risk and improving safety, which is President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority."

Secretary Slater noted that use of child safety seats is at an all time high, and that the nation is making progress in reducing the number of child fatalities. The nation met President Clinton's goal of reducing fatalities among children five and under by 15 percent, a year ahead of the President's target date. Fatalities in this group decreased from 652 in 1996 to 555 in 1999. The goal was set in 1997 and met in 1999.

"The most dangerous place we take our children is on America's highways," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall. "There are things that we can do today to make children safer when they ride in automobiles, including using restraints that are designed for children, not adults, and making sure all children ride in the back seat of the car."

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has dedicated more than $30 million over the past six years in highway safety programs for children, youth and young adults. Secretary Slater promised to continue this commitment through USDOT's program, Protecting America's Most Precious Resource: the Traffic Safety Agenda for Children, Youth and Young Adults.

Secretary Slater said that there is still a great deal more to do to safeguard the welfare of children as they use the nation's transportation system. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for school-age children and all Americans up to age 29.

"Normal morning and afternoon school transportation hours are the most dangerous times of day for child transportation. We can prevent many of these deaths and injuries using the top 10 steps we released today" said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Rosalyn G. Millman.

Secretary Slater explained that the five key dangers that kids face are:

  • Lack of seat belt and child safety seat use
  • Busy streets, unsafe motorists
  • Low bicycle helmet use
  • Unsafe school bus stops
  • Unsafe school drop-off zones

    Secretary Slater also outlined the top 10 ways parents and caregivers can help keep children safe:

  • Make sure your child uses the correct seat belt or safety restraint in the back seat while riding in a car. Children should sit in a booster seat with a seat belt on if they weigh between 40 and 80 pounds.
  • Never allow children to ride unrestrained in a vehicle. Have them sit in the back seat where it is safest until they are at least 12 years old.
  • Children should not cross the street at an intersection without adult supervision, and they should never cross the street in the middle of the block.
  • Children should always stop at a curb and look "Left-Right-Left" for traffic in all directions before proceeding.
  • Children on bicycles should always wear a correctly fitted bicycle helmet.
  • Children should learn the bicycle "rules of the road" at the same time they learn how to ride a bike. Riding an oversized bikes is especially dangerous.
  • Children should get to the bus stop at least five minutes early. They should ask the bus driver for help if they drop something near the bus. They should take "five giant steps" out from the front of the bus before crossing the street.
  • Adults should work with educators and the local police to enforce and publicize school bus laws. Many drivers are unaware that they should not pass a school bus that displays flashing red lights and extends the stop signal arms.
  • Coordinate with school officials to create safe school drop-off zones.
  • Work with local officials to reduce speed limits and post flashing warning signs if the school drop-off zone has a heavy volume of traffic or a high speed limit.

    At one of the four safety stations outside the Silver Spring elementary school, Secretary Slater demonstrated school bus safety techniques with the students. At other safety stations at the school, other groups demonstrated bike and pedestrian safety and booster seat and seat belt safety.


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