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Variety of Groups Backing Seat Belt Measure Shows Its Importance

Feb. 9, 2004

Variety of Groups Backing Seat Belt Measure Shows Its Importance


Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

It’s not often that this many disparate groups join together to stand behind a piece of legislation. Indeed, on too many highway safety proposals, auto manufacturers don’t support consumer group proposals for safety improvements.

This coalition represents more than 130 national, state and local groups representing everything from consumer, health and child safety to state legislators and the insurance and auto industries. All stand behind the National Highway Safety Act of 2003, S. 1933, sponsored by Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), which would push states to enact primary seat belt laws and thereby save thousands of lives annually.

Everyone here recognizes that a seat belt is one of the most basic life-saving devices. Everyone here knows that increasing belt use will dramatically improve highway safety, cut insurance costs, reduce medical bills and protect families from the trauma and heartbreak of losing a loved one. Everyone agrees that states must do better. As a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, I know the life-saving value of belt use and how hard it is to increase belt use. We need this bill to advance belt use.

It’s deplorable that in all but 20 states and the District of Columbia, law enforcement officers are not permitted to stop vehicles when they see unbelted occupants. Without enforcement, there is no respect for the law, and belt use is much lower than it should be. This measure, which would prompt states to give police that power, is a no-nonsense, cost-effective way to save lives. We urge Congress to pass it now.

Note: Joan Claybrook was Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977-1981.