Remarks of Ellen G. Engleman
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
"Kids in Back" Air Bag Event
Washington, DC
August 27, 2003


Good Morning. I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board to host this important event.

As Chuck mentioned, we have a "Most Wanted" list here at the NTSB, and one of our top priorities is reducing the number of senseless deaths on our nation's highways. Even one child lost is one too many. And the simple act of having children ride in properly buckled car seats and boosters in the back has saved 1700 lives, or one child's life each day.

Moving children to the back seat cuts a child's risk of injury by one-third. In 1996, and again in 1997, the Safety Board recommended both education and legislative efforts to get children to ride in the back seats. The most precious cargo we transport is our family. Parents childproof their homes to make them safe for their children - we can and should safety-proof our cars as well.

Parents are listening. Since 1996, we have seen an increase in children riding in the back seat. At the same time, progress has been made in the design of air bags. Today's technology can tailor the deployment of the air bag according to the crash severity, size and posture of the occupant, seat belt use or non-use, and the occupant's proximity to the air bag. Such technology will further reduce the unintended injuries and deaths from air bag deployment for adults. But let's be very clear, children are at risk in the front seats and need to ride in the back.

Parents can protect their children by having them ride in the back seat - but not enough are doing so. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), parents are still putting infants and toddlers in the front seat, and up to one third of children ages 4-7 in the front seat -- placing them at increased risk of serious injury or death.

The National Transportation Safety Board is not a regulatory agency. We are a bully pulpit, and I will be holding daily services - And today's sermon is -- Old air bag, new air bag, no air bag, kids are safer in the back buckled up in car seats and booster seats.

Thank you.