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Opening Remarks – Safe Transportation of School-Age Children, Back-to-School Press Conference, and Safety Demonstrations, Rockville, MD
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
Rockville, MD

Watch the press conference on youtube.​​

Good morning, everyone.  It is a pleasure to be here with all of you.  Buenos dias a todos.  Es un placer estar aqui con todo Uds.

Thank you, Mr. Fitzgerald, for the kind introduction. And thank you for the important work that you, Safe Kids, and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service do to educate our community about child passenger safety.

I speak today not only as the Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, but also as a mom.

Back-to-school safety is a national transportation safety issue that impacts 45 million students. But getting to school is also a practical and personal issue.

The best way to get to and from school varies from family to family, and even from student to student.  But no matter how your kids get to school – by school bus, car, bike, public transportation, or walking - I know that for each family and each school across our country, the highest priority is making sure our kids get to and from school safely, each and every time!

Recently, Montgomery County launched the “Look Out for Each Other” campaign, which reminds us that transportation safety is a responsibility that lies with everyone in the community, whether or not we are transporting children.

Back-to-school safety is something we can do personally and as a community, for all our children.  Is this a big responsibility?  Yes.  But is it also a responsibility that can bring us all together as a community and as a nation?  Yes.

I am happy to be here with people and organizations that look out for our community every day:

  • Mr. Jack Fitzgerald and his team
  • Safe Kids
  • Safe Routes to School
  • The Maryland Teen Safe Driving Coalition
  • The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service
  • The Montgomery County Police Department, and
  • Montgomery County Public Schools

No matter what kind of transportation they use, children in our community must be able to get to school as safely as possible, and we – as members of the community – must do our part to keep our roads safe.

Our speakers today will speak about the different ways students get to and from school, and how to do it safely.

As for me, I know that soon, like many of you, my husband and I will be taking our son to school and picking him up, every day, Monday through Friday.  And every day, perhaps because of the work I do, I can’t help but think of some terrible statistics.   We know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for school-aged children in the United States, but what does that mean?  It means that 3 children die and 450 more are injured every day in traffic and it means that every day 6 teenagers also die on the roads.  This translates to thousands of deaths and injuries to young people in our communities every year.

These are terrible numbers and each one is a terrible loss for a family and a community.  Each one of these deaths is tragic, but each one is also preventable.

As a community and as a nation, we can help prevent these deaths.  Each time my husband and I walk or bike with our son to his elementary school, we depend on every driver along the way to look out for us. And when we get behind the wheel, others depend on us to look out for them.

As we start this new school year, the students in our communities need our help.  Whether or not we are parents, we can help ensure that kids get to school – and come home – safely.

Whether it is in English, Spanish, or another language, we’re all in this together. Let’s all look out for each other.

Somos una comunidad, somos vecinos, juntos podemos contribuir a una comunidad mas segura.

We have wonderful speakers today.

Please join me in welcoming the following speakers:

  • Chief Alan Hinde with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service
  • Captain Tom Didone with the Montgomery County Police Department
  • Mr. Leon Langley with the Montgomery County Public Schools
  • Ms. Nadji Kirby with Safe Routes to School and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, and
  • Mr. Peter Moe with the Maryland Teen Driving Coalition