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Remarks Regarding Seatbelt and Child Passenger Safety at Launch of Operation ABC Mobilization

Monday, May 21, 2001
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement during the national news conference to launch the Operation ABC Mobilization - The 50-State Enforcement Crackdown on Adults Who Don't Buckle Up and Don't Buckle Up Kids. The Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign news conference was hearing was held on May 21, 2001.

"The District of Columbia received an 'A-minus' on today's report card. We are proud to be one of only three states in the country to get an 'A'. And next time, believe me, we are going to give California a run for its money for the No. 1 spot.

We received an 'A' on this report card because we are serious about our commitment to driver and passenger safety. Here in the Nation's Capital, we use strategies that work: enacting tough seat belt laws; enforcing those laws fairly and consistently; and supporting our law enforcement efforts with extensive education and prevention initiatives. There's no question about it: this is how you save lives.

Let me boast a little bit right now. In the District of Columbia, we have the strongest seat belt law in the nation—our law has teeth. If anyone—in any car, including taxicabs—is not buckled up—driver, passenger or child—our officers can stop, ticket, and fine the driver $50 dollars; $55 dollars for a violation involving a child passenger. On top of that, we assess two points on the driver's license. The result? DC now ranks sixth in the nation in seat belt use—83 percent of our drivers are buckled up during every ride.

But laws alone are not enough. To save lives, you must vigorously enforce the laws—and we do. It's "no warnings" ... "no excuses." If you break the law, you'll be ticketed and fined.

This week, we join law enforcement across the country in an aggressive crackdown on seat belt scofflaws. And this month, and every month, our police department is dedicating in excess of 120 hours of overtime—in each of our seven police districts—for the sole purpose of enforcing our seat belt and child restraint laws. The Metropolitan Police Department will continue this type of consistent enforcement for a long, long time to come.

Why? Because it works—because we are going to raise seat belt use in the District of Columbia to 90 percent—the best in the country. That's our goal, and there's no question—we will achieve it.

In 1999, three teenagers and eight adults died unbelted in crashes in the District. But that same year, we had no unrestrained fatalities of children under the age of 12. Some states would consider this a success. But we can do better.

This Memorial Day holiday, it's zero tolerance for unbuckled drivers and passengers—especially unbuckled children—because we have zero tolerance for preventable traffic deaths. If you take a risk and ride unbuckled, be prepared for the consequences—and look for us in your rear-view mirror.

Thank you very much."