U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Charges Safety Conference to Help Meet Seat Belt Goal; Salutes Recipients of Highway Safety Awards

ATLANTA--In a keynote address at Lifesavers 2000, the nation's premier traffic safety conference, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today charged those attending to mount an all-out effort to meet the national goal set by President Clinton to reach 85 percent seat belt use by the end of 2000.

"Safety is President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority, and reaching this goal will benefit all," Secretary Slater said. "I call on you, the safety leadership of America, in partnership with the Department, to join us in a renewed effort to increase seat belt use and reduce catastrophic loss of lives on our highways."

Reaching 85 percent seat belt use would prevent 4,200 deaths and 102,000 injuries annually and reduce costs associated with highway crashes. The U.S. seat belt use rate now is 70 percent.

In his address, Secretary Slater recalled the national pledge, "Safety is a promise we make and keep together," to improve safety, an outcome of the National Transportation Safety Conference in March 1999. He also sought to renew the partnership from those attending Lifesavers 2000 to achieve the U.S. Department of Transportation's other ambitious safety goals: to reduce child traffic fatalities by 25 percent by 2005; to reduce alcohol-related fatalities to fewer than 11,000 by 2005; and to reduce the number of truck- and bus-related crash fatalities by 50 percent by 2010.

"Thanks to our many public-private partnerships, especially the partners we recognize today, we have made enormous progress in highway safety," NHTSA Acting Administrator Rosalyn G. Millman said. "It will take all of us, working together, to overcome the remaining obstacles to our goal of safe highway travel for all Americans."

Secretary Slater also saluted the 14 men, women and organizations singled out for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Public Service Awards. The awards, to be presented March 14 during the annual traffic safety conference, will go to individuals and organizations from New Hampshire, New York, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, Colorado, California, Washington, Maryland and Texas.

NHTSA awards for public service recognize and honor individuals and organizations who exemplified high standards of achievement in the field of traffic safety. The following received awards:

Patricia A. Rainboth, Executive Director, Victims, Inc., Rochester, N.H.: For her longstanding commitment of providing assistance, comfort and emotional support for people suddenly mired in tragic situations as a result of motor vehicle crashes.

James McMahon, Superintendent, New York State Police, Albany, N.Y.: In recognition of his exceptional leadership in mobilizing state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to actively participate in "Buckle Up New York," as well as his efforts on impaired driving enforcement.

John Urban, Chair, Safe Kids Kent County Chapter, Dover, Del.: In recognition of his dedication and commitment to ensuring the safety and well being of the children of Delaware by spreading the message of consistent and correct use of child safety seats.

Julia Emmons, Council Member, City of Atlanta: For her exemplary leadership and dedicated commitment to improving the quality of life for pedestrians in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

David Easterbrook, Impaired Driving Advocate, Troy, Mich.: In recognition of his personal sacrifice and commitment to prevent impaired driving in Michigan by working tirelessly to eliminate impaired driving in his community and the state.

Louis Peterson, Safe Tribal Community Coordinator, Poplar, Mont.: For his tireless efforts to reduce death and injury on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana by implementing a Safe Tribal Community program.

Sara Hill, Anchor/Reporter, KRCB TV, Jefferson City, Mo.: For her dedication and creativity in pursuing and reporting .08 BAC benefits to the citizens of Missouri.

Robert E. Whiting, Community Resource Officer, Gunnison Police Department, Gunnison, Colo.: For his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for occupant protection and impaired driving issues in the State of Colorado and in the City of Gunnison.

Diane Perez, Project Coordinator, Riverside County Office of Education, Riverside, Calif.: In recognition of 10 years of dedication to traffic safety, including her key role in the development of the successful school-community partnership for traffic safety in Riverside County.

Jeffrey J. Pritchard, Sr., Founder, Helmets for Youth Foundation, Bainbridge Island, Wash.: For his extraordinary personal dedication as founder of the Helmets for Youth Foundation, by assuring that thousands of children in need have bicycle helmets.

General Motors Corporation, Detroit: In recognition of the General Motors Corporation support and leadership of the Meharry Medical College Research initiative, which helped galvanize awareness of African American seat belt use.

Robert B. Voas, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, National Public Service Research Institute, Landover, Md.: In appreciation of three decades of leadership and research in combating the alcohol-impaired driving problem.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Irving, Texas: In recognition of MADD's 20th anniversary and their continual leadership in bringing the issue of impaired driving to the forefront of the public.

American Automobile Association, Heathrow, Fla.: In appreciation of AAA's leadership in the child passenger safety certification program and its continuing efforts in graduated driver license programs.

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