Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here today to participate in an event of such critical importance to the Native American families of America. I was pleased to participate with Ford President Jacques Nasser in the announcement earlier this year of the BoostAmerica! program and I am honored to share the podium today with NHTSA Administrator Dr. Sue Bailey, Ford representative Lou Camp, and Native American tribal representatives, to announce the first recipients of booster seats as a result of this program. This is a very timely announcement as we enter the holiday season. There is no greater gift to give a child than the gift of life.
The most dangerous place we take our children every day is on our Nation's highways. Statistics from the Department of Transportation indicate that in the 1990s over 90,000 children under the age of 21 died in motor vehicle crashes and over 9 million children were injured.
That means that, every week, more than 170 children are killed and another 173,000 are injured on our highways. In 1999, over 500 children ages 4 to 8, who should be restrained in booster seats, died in traffic crashes; almost 10 children each week. Unfortunately six out of 10 of the children who die, as passengers in motor vehicle crashes, are not buckled up.
Highway tragedies do not discriminate - Caucasians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and Native Americans are all equally vulnerable.
We cannot continue to permit Native American children - or any children - to be injured or killed in preventable crashes, especially when simple solutions are so readily available. That is why this distribution of booster seats to Native American tribes in 18 States is so important.
In 1999, I called upon every automaker, every state, and every other child transport-related organization to establish permanent child safety seat fitting stations in every community. All parents and caregivers must be given the opportunity to ensure that their child is safely secured in their vehicle.
No parent or caregiver should have to wait until after an accident to discover that their child wasn't protected by an ineffective lifesaving device.
Ford Motor Company, answered our call to action by creating BoostAmerica!, a program to help the States ensure that all 4 to 8 year old children are properly buckled up in booster seats.
Tomorrow, the Safety Board will be hosting a meeting in our Board Room to discuss the need for booster seats that can be used in vehicles with lap-only belts. Since all older automobiles were equipped only with lap belts in the back seat, this problem tends to impact low-income and minority populations, who tend to own older vehicles. We hope to discuss what short term solutions there are to help low-income and minority families protect their children. Distribution of booster seats like Ford is doing today as part of BoostAmerica! is one solution. I hope you will joint us tomorrow for this important discussion.
As I said when the BoostAmerica! Program was announced earlier this year, the Ford Motor Company has been part of our heritage of mobility in highway transportation throughout American history. It is certainly fitting that this company is putting children first on our highways.
It's time to change the safety culture in our communities and on our highways. We must put the safety of every child - African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Latino, Native American - first and we must take the actions necessary to ensure their safety.
Today's announcement is an important step towards meeting that goal. It's time for all of us to put children first and to stop this senseless loss of our children on our highways.