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Remarks at Bill Signing Ceremony, Itasca, Illinois, July 3, 2003
Ellen Engleman Conners
Bill Signing Ceremony, Itasca, Illinois

This is truly a historic day for the National Transportation Safety Board and the state of Illinois! It marks the first time ever that three of our Most Wanted recommendations have been enacted in one year by one state and, more importantly, it means that the state's citizens are safer.

Senate Bill 50 enacts primary enforcement of seat belt use; Senate Bill 52 requires children less than 8 years of age to use booster seats in automobiles; and Senate Bill 58 restricts novice teen drivers to one teenage passenger for the first six months of their license.

It is a privilege for me to be here to recognize Governor Rod Blagojevich and the legislative leaders who supported these bills. With us today are Illinois State Senator Barack Obama and State Representatives Mark Beaubien, Timothy Schmitz, and Randall Hultgren. Without you, we would not be here today. With your action and foresight, you are making Illinois roads safer for all your citizens.

More than 9,600 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois between 1994 and 2001. Almost 55 percent of them were unrestrained. Several thousand of them would be alive today to celebrate this holiday weekend with their loved ones if they had taken a second to buckle up. Thanks to the Governor and legislative leaders of Illinois, fewer families will have to suffer the unnecessary loss of a loved one, as a result of the laws being enacted today.

The presence of State Police Director Larry Trent at today's event sends a message to Illinois' citizens that these laws are important to their safety and their children's safety and that they will be enforced.

I want to thank the National Safety Council (NSC) for hosting the event today - especially Alan McMillan, the NSC's President, and Chuck Hurley, the NSC's Vice President. I also want to thank Don McNamara, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regional director, for attending today.

And, I also want to recognize the representatives from the Air Bag and Seatbelt Safety Campaign who are here today for their contributions. Since 1996, the campaign has led the nation's efforts to "Buckle Up America," through primary safety belt enforcement laws. Their efforts, those particularly of Chuck Hurley and David Kelly and all of the dedicated advocates and volunteers who work with them day-in and day-out, have already paid important dividends in lives saved in other states and will now begin to pay off in Illinois.

With record numbers of people planning to take to the roads, traveling for the July 4th holiday weekend, the three safety issues addressed in these three bills represent some of the most proven methods to save lives in highway accidents. Seat belts, when worn, can cut deaths and injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes in half. Booster seats reduce serious injuries to children by 50 to 75 percent and for young, inexperienced drivers the more passengers that are in the vehicle, the greater the risk of an accident. Limiting the number of passengers reduces distractions and allows the young driver to focus on the driving task.

Primary enforcement, booster seats for children and teen driver passenger restrictions have been on the Safety Board's Most Wanted list for almost 10 years. As part of the effort to address these safety issues, the Board works with the states, NHTSA, the NSC, and other organizations to raise awareness and promote legislation addressing the issues.

Now, in recognition of this special day for both the citizens of Illinois and the NTSB, I have two awards I'd like to present.

Governor, you have been a leader for children's and patient's rights. Now you are leading the way for other governors to make highway safety a priority.

In honor of your dedication to transportation safety, I am pleased to present this plaque to you. It reads: "For Outstanding Leadership In Promoting and Adopting Laws To Require Safety Belt Use By All Drivers, The Use Of Booster Seats For Young Children, And To Limit Teen Passengers Transported By Young Novice Drivers In Illinois."

If more state legislators understood the importance of State highway safety legislation, the way Senator Cullerton does, there would be fewer deaths on our nation's highways.

Senator Cullerton, in recognition of your leadership in transportation safety, I'm honored to present you with this plaque that reads: "For Your Initiative and Outstanding Leadership In Promoting and Adopting Laws To Require Safety Belt Use By All Drivers, The Use Of Booster Seats For Young Children, And To Limit Teen Passengers Transported By Young Novice Drivers In Illinois."

Thank you all for participating in this special day.