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Transportation Secretary Slater Cautions Motorists to Drive Safely During Memorial Day Weekend

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Transportation Secretary Slater Cautions Motorists to Drive Safely During Memorial Day Weekend

U.S. Department of Transportation
May 21, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 21, 1998
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel.: 202-366-5580
DOT 103-98

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today cautioned motorists to drive safely during their travels as Memorial Day weekend begins the summer holidays and vacation season for many Americans. He urged everyone to buckle up, to avoid drinking and driving, and to share the road patiently.

"Safety is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. "Holidays are for celebration, and by buckling up, avoiding drunk driving, and sharing the road, we can dramatically reduce the chance of being killed or injured."

State police and highway patrols in all 50 states will be working with local law enforcement authorities and stepping up patrols as part of a nationwide effort to enforce safety laws, including state requirements for safety belt and child safety seat use as well as prohibitions against drunk and acts of aggressive driving.

Last year 501 people were killed in traffic crashes during the three-day Memorial Day weekend, and nearly half of deaths were in alcohol-related crashes. Alcohol-related crashes during all of 1997 dropped to 39.3 percent of all traffic fatalities, marking the first time that the percentage was below 40 percent since the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began keeping records.

Sixty-three percent of the motor vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes last year were not buckled up, and 55 percent of the children under five killed in traffic crashes were not in safety seats, according to NHTSA.

Memorial Day weekend traffic deaths peaked in 1986 when 616 were killed, with 62.2 percent of those deaths occurring in alcohol-related crashes. Since reaching a low of 438 in 1992, the Memorial Day weekend fatality toll has been increasing each year.

Secretary Slater offered the following tips for traveling safely:

  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Buckle up for every trip, and ensure that all passengers are buckled up or properly restrained in child safety seats or booster seats. Children under 12 should be in the back seat.
  • Never put a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an air bag.
  • Follow the instructions and advice from road signs and signals, especially by stopping for red lights and obeying speed limits.
  • Be a cooperative, not a competitive driver.
  • Get plenty of rest before long trips. Stop every three hours on long trips to rest -- more frequently if you need it.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is safe by checking its fluids, tires, windshield wipers and brakes.
  • Plan your trip, especially if it is into an unfamiliar area. Good planning reduces stress and the risk of a crash because of unfamiliar roads.

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