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Remarks at National SAFE KIDS Campaign Leadership Conference, Washington, DC, October 28, 2003
Ellen Engleman Conners
National SAFE KIDS Campaign Leadership Conference, Washington, DC

Thank you, Heather. I am pleased to be here on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Honestly, I have the best job in the world. I represent a small agency, only about 429 people. But NTSB employees don't have jobs; they have a mission - to improve transportation safety.

In a way, they are like all of you volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure people are safer. You are out there working in the heat or cold, rain or shine. You stay there until you get that child seat in the car correctly. And it's wonderful to see the look on those parents' faces when they finally get it, finally understand how to install their child seats.

I've seen first-hand how dedicated you are and the impact that you have. I witnessed a child seat inspection conducted by the Montgomery County SAFE KIDS coalition at Fitzgerald Auto Mall on May 8, 2003. It was my first public appearance as Chairman. Although it was pouring rain, the technicians checked 300 cars that day. More importantly, 300 parents also went out in that miserable weather to ensure that their children were safe -- which shows how much parents need and appreciate the services you are providing.

Let's face it, child seat instructions are not easy to understand, and child seats are not easy to install. While most parents (approximately 93 percent) think they are installing their child's safety seat correctly, in reality, 8 out of 10 are not. We need trained and certified experts, like you, so that we can be sure that parents are getting correct instruction!

I've heard the stories from mothers who have visited fitting stations like yours. Some of these mothers were in car crashes after having their child seats checked. And it is wonderful to hear them say how the fitting stations and child seats saved their children's lives.

So I also want to recognize the representatives from General Motors (GM) and United Auto Workers (UAW) who are here with us today. For eight years, GM has demonstrated corporate leadership by supporting SAFE KIDS. It is great to see employers and employees working together, as GM and UAW work together to save children's lives by funding permanent fitting stations, mobile vans, and child safety seats for low-income families.

The Safety Board brings a little something different to the table. We are an effective bully pulpit, and we hold daily services. As Chairman, I want the Safety Board to be aggressive in its pursuit of safety. As a result, we have a new program to do just that. Each Board Member has taken responsibility for working in 10 States.

One of my States is Indiana, which is where I'm originally from. We unfortunately lost an important battle last year in Indiana. I know how hard the work can be for us. But we will do whatever we can to help you pass stronger laws and work with your State legislators. We will speak with editorial boards, go on talk shows, speak at schools and PTAs, meet with legislators, and give testimony at hearings.

Many of you may know that the NTSB investigates accidents. You especially may have heard about our airplane accident investigations. But we are the National Transportation Safety Board; we have responsibility for improving safety in all modes of transportation. For example, the NTSB has been involved over the last week in the investigation of the Staten Island Ferry accident, a horrible tragedy.

But there is an epidemic occurring on our highways. Last year, we lost almost 43,000 people. This is the real security issue, highway safety. We at the NTSB are dedicated to doing all that we can to prevent another person from receiving the horrible telephone call advising him or her that a loved one has just died in a motor vehicle crash. And we want to work with you to make that happen.

I wish you the best at your conference and with all the good things that you do as part of this organization.