Remarks of Ellen Engleman Conners
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
before the
National SAFE KIDS Campaign
SAFE KIDS Buckle Up Awards Luncheon
Washington, DC
October 22, 2004


Good afternoon. I am pleased to be back here again this year. In public speaking, they say you should never talk while people are eating. You should never follow a child. And you should never follow Alan. Today, I'm doing all three!

But it is great to be here. I know that when I come to speak to this group, I don't have to do any educating. I'm really preaching to the choir. You all know the importance of putting children in child safety seats and booster seats. You know about the need for fitting stations to teach people how to install child safety seats properly. And you know to buckle up every time. Right?!

You are the ones that are out there doing it, showing people how to install their seats. And you've been doing it for years. I want to recognize your efforts. Since 1997, almost 550,000 child restraints have been inspected and 550,000 children are safer because of you.

Just one example highlights the importance of the work you do. In June 2002, Christie Aldrich attended a check-up event in Flint, Mich., with her infant son, Michael. Christie learned how to install Michael's child safety seat. Six months later, Christie and Michael were involved in a crash. Her minivan was struck on the front right side, the same side of the vehicle where her precious cargo, her son Michael, was sitting. Despite the seriousness of the crash, Michael was unharmed, and Christie was slightly bruised and sore. The fact that Michael survived uninjured is a testament to the importance of the work you do every day.

The Safety Board is proud to be a part of your efforts and of our continued relationship to improve safety and save lives. We really began our relationship with SAFE KIDS in 1999 when former Chairman Jim Hall announced at your annual conference that the Safety Board was asking the States to establish permanent fitting stations. SAFE KIDS responded with all the heart and soul that this organization has. You have clearly taken the lead in providing this important service.

I was speaking yesterday to a group about highway safety. By the way, this is my fourth luncheon speech this week, and I haven't actually eaten any of the food. Whoever gets my dessert - enjoy! But yesterday I was talking to a group about the progress we have made in addressing impaired driving. We now have .08 BAC laws across the country. We have child seat inspections across the country. And we tend to think that our work is finished. We've done it. We can move on to the next thing. But our work isn't done!

How many of you are registered voters? Wow, I love this group! It's so important because you can make a difference. We need improved child passenger safety laws. 22 States don't require child restraints for children beyond age 4. 41 States don't have child passenger safety laws that reflect what you and I consider to be best practices for child restraint use.

The Safety Board is available to help you with your legislative efforts. We will come to your State. We will testify, talk with legislators, work with editorial boards, and pretty much go door-to-door. I encourage all of you to work with your legislative leaders, and we'll be there to support you. If I get to come back here next year, I don't want to say 41 States or 22 States. I want to say we did it! We got 'um!

I want to recognize a few people now. Is Kerry Chausmer from Louisiana here? I want to recognize Kerry. We worked very closely with Kerry, the Louisiana Coordinator, who received the SAFE KIDS Public Policy Achievement Award last year for her advocacy work in support of Louisiana's booster seat law. Kerry, you can have my dessert! Kerry kept the Board informed of the progress of Louisiana's bill, coordinated the legislative effort, and made sure that local volunteers contacted legislators, a key aspect to any successful legislative effort. I understand that Kerry has now moved to DC to lead the SAFE KIDS CPS certification program. Louisiana has lost, but DC has certainly gained.

I also want to recognize Kathy Leggett. Where are you, Kathy? Kathy has worked for years to improve Iowa's CPS law, which now requires child safety seats or booster seats until children are 6-years-old. This new law will certainly save many lives. Congratulations Kathy and thank you for your commitment!

I want to recognize the following coalitions and I ask that you stand: Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. All of these coalitions were successful this year in improving their State's child passenger safety law. Let's give these hard working coalition members a round of applause.

And I want to recognize General Motors. GM was the first auto company to address child passenger safety through a national grassroots program. GM has been the longtime sponsor of the SAFE KIDS CPS program.

I also want you to recognize each other for all the wonderful work that you do. All of you are CEOs. For me, CEO doesn't mean "Chief Executive Officer." It means "communicate, educate, and outreach." You are all CEOs of your organization of safety!

I want to commend the National SAFE KIDS Campaign for their sustained commitment to child passenger safety. I look forward to a continued supportive and successful working relationship with you.