My name is Jim Hall and I am the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. I would like to thank the media and our most distinguished guests for a most important event.
As I begin this year, my sixth as the Chairman of the Safety Board, I wanted to highlight one issue that I felt after looking back on my period as Chairman that I can emphasize on behalf of the American people and that issue is child transportation safety.
In the last decade; over 81,000 children under the age of 20 have been killed on our highways. In the last decade over 15,000 children under the age of 10 have been killed on our highways.
All of us are very familiar with the media coverage this week and the tragedy at Texas A&M University and yesterday at Penn State. The loss of a child is truly the greatest tragedy that can befall a family. It was the former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop that said "There are very few places that children can go that adults have not made dangerous for them." Our highways are the most dangerous place for our young people in the United States. Car crashes are the leading risk faced by our nation's children. It is every adult's responsibility to be sure that the children in their cars are being properly buckled up. That is the goal of Operation ABC Mobilization, that is why we are here this morning. This program goes to the heart of the number one problem in the United States of America. The fact that the number one killer of kids is highway deaths.
REMARKS DURING THE PROGRAM
Thank you Janet,
The results of this survey I find extremely disturbing. Children rely on adults and care givers to protect them. I believe most adults would never intentionally put themselves at risk, however, the drivers n this survey, admit that they don't always buckle up children, and that they knowingly put children at risk and do so repeatedly. This is unconscionable. Drivers who fail to ensure that their passengers, especially children and babies in their care, are buckled up are needlessly endangering them and violating the law. Law enforcement officials across the United States should take the necessary steps to aggressively enforce the law with these willful offenders. All Americans should be proud of the men and women in law enforcement who are going to put kids first this Thanksgiving week and enforcing child restraint laws across our great nation.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for American children of all races. Sixty percent of the children killed in crashes are completely unbuckled. Nearly half of these unbuckled children would be alive today if drivers had obeyed the law and buckled them up.
The hallways of the NTSB are lined with photos of some of the nations' most serious and tragic transportation disasters - and each one has left families to bear the tremendous pain of losing a loved one too soon to a preventable accident. But we will never have enough wall space at the NTSB for the thousands and thousands of vehicle crashes that have taken the lives of more that 81,000 children under the age of 20 in this decade. Think of it. In 1998 alone over 320,000 children were seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes. Law enforcement officers, who bear witness daily to the consequence of vehicle crashes should know that the survey results also show that the American people have zero tolerance for those drivers who don't buckle up their children and that the public supports aggressive enforcement of child restraint laws. Colonel Robinson, who is here as a representative of law enforcement and the other individuals here representing the law enforcement community, I want to tell you that all of us at the NTSB commend you for everything that you are doing to protect our children.
I would also like to recognize Secretary Slater for everything he's doing at the Department of Transportation on putting an emphasis on this issue during his tenure. Also the media for the public attention you are bringing to this important safety item. You are making a difference but there is much more to be done.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a time that families get together to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. It is one of the busiest travel times of the year and one of the deadliest times for children. According to Department of Transportation estimates, 15 million children under age 15 ride unbuckled and at risk. We must ensure that those children and those of relatives and friends, are not counted among the casualties this week. No matter how short the ride, such carelessness is always life threatening and never worth the risk.
I am proud again to stand here today with the Secretary and together with representatives of the law enforcement community, to launch this critical effort. It is time to put kids first in Highway Safety - if we do, we will all be safer.