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Letter to the Secretary of Commerce on Highway Safety.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Letter to the Secretary of Commerce on Highway Safety.

President Harry S Truman
April 14, 1952

[Released April 14, 1952. Dated April 11, 1952]

My dear Mr. Secretary:

The mounting toll of traffic accidents on our highways is one of the more serious problems confronting our Nation today. While the continuing efforts made by individuals, organizations, Federal, State and local agencies to promote highway safety have resulted in a reduction in the rate of accidents, the great increase in traffic has caused an increase in the total number of accidents and fatalities and the downward trend has been reversed.

In 1950 traffic fatalities reached 35,000. In 1951 this total increased to 37,500 and the National Safety Council estimates that a further increase to the alarming total of 40,000 will result from highway accidents during 1952• Coupled with the bodily injury to more than 1,000,000 persons and monetary losses approaching $3,000,000,000, these staggering totals indicate the need for renewed and increased efforts.

In May 1946, at my invitation, representatives of the States, counties and municipalities with legal responsibilities in matters of highway traffic, together with representatives of numerous national and civic organizations having a primary interest in traffic safety, assembled in Washington as the President's Highway Safety Conference for the purpose of devising ways and means of reducing this annual drain upon our national resources. This Conference adopted an Action Program designed to inaugurate a definite and continuing movement for the purpose of promoting a greater degree of safety for traffic upon our highways. This Action Program has produced gratifying results wherever it has been applied fully. Results have been in proportion to the vigor with which the program has been advanced.

We cannot be satisfied with the present accomplishments but must intensify our efforts in an endeavor to awaken greater public interest in reducing traffic casualties. We should enlist the active support of business and other civic groups as well as public officials. With this thought in mind and since the Bureau of Public Roads, which is the Federal agency concerned chiefly with highway matters, is under your jurisdiction, I should like to have you spearhead a renewed highway safety program and serve as General Chairman of the President's Highway Safety Conference.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Charles Sawyer, The Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The President's Highway Safety Conference was held in Chicago, Ill., on October 17 and 18.

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