Children are our Nation's most precious gift, and one of our most profound responsibilities is protecting their health, well-being, and safety. Nowhere is this duty more critical than on America's streets and highways.
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for America's young people. It is tragic that a high proportion of these deaths could be prevented, but are not. For example, we know that seat belts save lives-last year they prevented the deaths of almost 10,000 Americans-and, yet, many still fail to wear them.
I encourage all Americans to take a few simple steps to ensure that their families travel safely. The most important rule is also the simplest: The safest place for children is the back seat. Also, parents and guardians must always make sure that children are secured, either in a locked seat belt or in an appropriate child safety seat.
I commend the Department of Transportation for its "Patterns for Life" program, begun in 1996 to focus attention on correct child safety seat use and the proper positioning of children and their safety seats away from air bags. Working through national safety organizations and State public safety and highway offices, this program offers a network of qualified child passenger safety trainers to provide communities with the valuable resources they need to reduce motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries.
Laws exist in every State and the District of Columbia that require proper restraints for younger children. However, 40 percent of our children under five are still not properly restrained. We must do better to enforce the existing laws and protect our precious cargo.
The steps we take now will make our roads safer and our children more secure. My Administration is striving to increase the use of seat belts throughout the Nation. We are also working with automobile makers, car dealers, private organizations, and insurance companies to teach parents how to install child safety seats properly, and new technologies will eventually make air bags safer for children.
Now, Therefore, I, William J. Clinton, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 9 through February 15, 1997, as National Child Passenger Safety Week. I urge all Americans to help reduce injuries and the tragic loss of life on our highways by buckling up every child in an approved restraint, in the vehicle's back seat. And let us all help spread these important child safety messages throughout our communities. By doing so, we can save many young lives.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-first.
William J. Clinton
Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 8:45 a.m., February 11, 1997
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