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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Calls for Safer Driving, Seat Belt Use In National Medical Association Address

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Calls for Safer Driving, Seat Belt Use In National Medical Association Address

August 12, 2000

Saturday, August 12, 2000
Contact: Kathryn Henry
Telephone: 202-366-9550
NHTSA 34-00

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Continuing to emphasize safety, President Clinton and Vice President Gore’s highest transportation priority, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today called on members of the National Medical Association (NMA) to remember to prescribe traffic safety messages for patients as the antidote to disproportionately high traffic-related deaths and injuries among African Americans.

"Physicians are especially influential, and I am asking them to include safety in the health advice they provide patients," Secretary Slater said. "By urging patients to buckle up and drive safely, NMA members can help change people’s habits – and thus prevent injury and save lives."

African Americans are overrepresented in the number of traffic related fatalities and injuries, when compared with the general population. According to a national survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), observed seat belt use among African Americans is 4 percent lower than the national average.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 75 percent of African Americans killed in car crashes were not restrained. This compares with 63 percent among the general population.

African-American children, in particular, are at risk. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for African Americans through the age of 14. A recent study by Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that per mile traveled, the risk of black children dying is almost three times as great as the risk for white children.

A study released in July 1999 by Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn., found that African American youth are 50 percent less likely to be buckled than whites or Hispanics. It also observed that 100 percent seat belt 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. In the context of that announcement, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher remarked that increasing seat belt use would save thousands of young lives each and every year.

For young African American males between 15 and 24, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death.

A recent survey of hospital emergency room visits showed that motor vehicle crashes accounted for approximately 779,000 visits per year for African Americans, a rate of 24 per 1,000 people, compared to 14 per 1,000 for whites.

The NMA has been involved in several U.S. Department of Transportation safety initiatives and is participating in a blue ribbon panel to increase seat belt use among African Americans.

During Buckle up America Week, May 22-29, NMA physicians joined in urging patients to buckle up, not just part-time, but all the time for their safety and health. The NMA joined NHTSA, the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign and the law enforcement community in coordinating this mammoth national effort to get part-time seat belt users "in the habit" of wearing seat belts and buckling up their passengers.

The National Medical Association is a medical society representing the interests of more than 25,000 African American physicians. At their Aug. 12-15 NMA meeting, national leaders of the NMA will conduct the business of the association, making policy and program decisions that will direct the activities of the NMA.


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