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Remarks before the Commonwealth of Virginia Bill Signing Ceremony, Richmond, Virginia, May 27, 2004
Ellen Engleman Conners
Commonwealth of Virginia Bill Signing Ceremony, Richmond, Virginia

Good Afternoon. My name is Ellen Engleman Conners, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. The 429 safety professionals who work at the NTSB believe safety is not a job, but a mission. We are aggressive in our pursuit of safety and the work done by the Legislatures in States such as Virginia is critically important to that mission.

I want to thank both the Governor and the Members of the Virginia Legislature, especially those who sponsored the important safety legislation signed today.

Today, we celebrate the signing of 25 bills that send a very clear message that the Commonwealth of Virginia is serious about alcohol and drug-impaired driving and especially about the person we call the hard-core drinking driver.

The hard core drinking driver is that person who puts all of us at risk because he drinks excessively and drives with a high blood alcohol concentration (0.15 and above) or has repeat impaired driving offenses.

Many of these bills are consistent with NTSB's recommendation to cut fatalities and to more effectively deal with the hard core drinking driver. We feel so strongly about the importance of this issue that it is on our list of Most Wanted safety improvements.

The laws signed today will save the lives of Virginia children and adults. They are a tremendous step forward.

Today, we recognize governmental safety leadership at all levels in the Commonwealth of Virginia starting with Governor Warner and the Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs that he formed.

I also want to recognize the courage and conviction of the Senators and Representatives who sponsored all of these bills including Senators Norment, Reynolds, Rerras, and Stolle, and Representatives Albo, Athey, Bell, Fralin, Janis, McDonnell, McDougle, Moran, Reese, and Sherwood.

Needless to say perhaps, but without you, we would not be here. We know it was your hard work to get these bills through the legislature that made the difference. I know about the marathon meetings of the House and Senate subcommittees and the weekend meetings to work on this legislation. With your action and foresight, you are making Virginia roads safer for all your citizens, including me, as I will be moving to Loudoun County soon.

Your actions are a challenge to other States in this region to get serious about alcohol and drug impaired drivers and those States need to follow your example.

We all know that more needs to be done, even here in Virginia, and the Safety Board looks forward to continuing our joint efforts with the Commonwealth of Virginia -- especially the Legislature -- on impaired driving and other safety measures.

Now, I want to recognize the safety leadership of the Commonwealth of Virginia by presenting Governor Warner with a plaque commemorating that leadership. The citation reads:

"For Outstanding Leadership In Appointing a Governor's Commission on Impaired Driving and In Promoting and Adopting Laws To Reduce Alcohol-Related Fatalities in Virginia, Especially Those Involving Hard Core Drinking Drivers "

Today is a life-saving day for Virginia. From now on, let's make every day a life-saving day by being alert, attentive, and sober behind the wheel. Thank you.