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U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.


NHTSA 11-98
Friday, March 6, 1998 Contact: Tim Hurd

Tel. No. (202) 366-9550


NHTSA and NASCAR Team Up to Buckle Up


ATLANTA -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today announced that a special team of America's best "Sunday Drivers" -- top NASCAR racers -- will put the department's message about seat belt use on the fast track, and they have just two words to say to America's driving public: "Buckle Up."

Secretary Slater announced the new national public education campaign today as part of President Clinton's initiative to increase seat belt use. Joining Secretary Slater at the Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) during the Primestar 500 race weekend were NASCAR stars Bill Elliott, Jeff Burton, Rusty Wallace, Geoff Bodine, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Labonte, and the director of the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety, Tim Jones.

Elliott, Burton, Wallace, Bodine, Waltrip and Labonte are among the professionals who will be appearing in national public service announcements targeting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) "most wanted," the 32 percent of Americans who still don't buckle up.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority, and he is committed to increasing seat belt use," Secretary Slater said. "While buckling up takes only three quick seconds, seat belts will save nearly 10,000 lives this year. America's best drivers are sending a strong message that seat belts are necessary for all and that everyone should take the responsibility to buckle up."

In a April 1997, President Clinton called on all Americans to increase their use of seat belts and unveiled a national strategy to achieve 85 percent seat belt use by the year 2000. Seat belt use currently stands at 68 percent.

"We must still convince nearly one-third of Americans to use seat belts. The participation of NASCAR drivers is all the more significant this year as America's sport, known for prioritizing driver safety and community involvement, celebrates its 50th Anniversary," said Ricardo Martinez, M.D., NHTSA administrator.

Young men, who tend to be NASCAR's strongest fans, account for a large number of those who typically do not use seat belts.

Dr. Martinez said that achieving the 85 percent goal would save 4,200 lives, prevent 102,000 injuries and save society $6.7 billion each year. Hospital costs are 50 percent higher for unbuckled crash victims, and 85 percent of these costs are passed on to society. On a per person basis, motor vehicle crashes cost each American $580 a year.

The television and radio spots, to be produced by NHTSA with the cooperation of Ford, General Motors and the Atlanta Motor Speedway, will have three simple messages. They are: Always use your seat belt, because:

  • Your family needs you alive,
  • Seat belts are the best defense against death and injury, and
  • Buckling up is required by law in most states.

The spots, which will be produced this weekend at AMS amid the backdrop of a NASCAR race weekend, will be distributed later this spring to national cable and network television and radio stations who run NASCAR races and programming.

U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
1-800-424-9153 (TTY)