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Remarks Before National News Conference to Announce Thanksgiving Week Operation ABC Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization

Monday, November 23, 1998
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC

To my fellow police officers from across the nation, I want to welcome you to the District of Columbia, where we are very proud of the success we have had in getting people buckled up. It is exciting and gratifying to stand with you today, here in our Nation's Capital, as we set out to do one of the most important jobs we have as police officers—protecting America's children.

Together, we are here to deliver a simple, but powerful message on behalf of the tens of thousands of fellow officers who will be out in force, protecting our children, during this busy holiday travel week. Our message: Drivers who don't buckle up children will be stopped and ticketed. No exceptions. No excuses.

This is exciting because I know that this week, we are going to make a difference in the lives of families—here in the District of Columbia and across this great nation. And we are going to improve traffic safety in the long run, because of our efforts.

We are here today because we know enforcement works, especially when enforcement is supported by effective education and prevention. We are here because there are still too many children at risk—unnecessary and totally preventable risk—because someone—an adult—allows them to ride in a vehicle unbuckled. Talk to the officers behind me—and I hope that you will. Every one of us would gladly write 50 tickets—or 500 or 5,000—if it meant not having to pull one more broken child from a vehicle.

Here in the District of Columbia, we are enforcing—and enforcing successfully—one of the most comprehensive seat belt laws in the nation. Our law allows police officers to stop a vehicle for a seat belt violation. If anyone in the car—front or rear seat passenger—is unbuckled, the driver will be fined $50 and be assessed two points on his or her license.

This strong law, coupled with strong enforcement and strong public education, is getting results and saving lives. Since the law was strengthened last year, seat belt use is up 24 percent in Washington, DC. More than 8 out of 10 drivers in the District now buckle up. And among taxicab drivers, more than 7 in 10 are buckling up—a rate this is more than double their peers in surrounding jurisdictions.

Ours is an impressive story of success. But that's not enough. I have been asked today to speak on behalf of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and to confirm that this week, tens of thousands of officers across the nation will be stepping up traffic safety enforcement through checkpoints, saturation patrols and increased focus on child passenger safety and, where possible, seat belt violations. For the District of Columbia, today marks the beginning of a new series of stepped-up enforcement and education initiatives over the next year.

Our success could not be possible without the members of the DC's Clickin'! Coalition. This is a partnership of the Metropolitan Police Department, the DC Department of Public Works, the DC SAFE KIDS Coalition, and the Department of Emergency Medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center. I want to thank them for their tremendous energy and support.

Working together—through education and enforcement—we will strive to get every person, every child, buckled up ... every time. Thank you.