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For Immediate Release,
Kathy Lane
Communications Director
(630) 775-2307

National Safety Council Honors Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign for Lifesaving Achievements

Campaign Ushered in New Era of Driving Safety; Principals Receiving Flame of Life Award

Itasca, IL – Not since the 1960’s Buckle Up For Safety Campaign has a national initiative reshaped the American driving culture as has the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign. Launched in 1996 and known for its national Click it or Ticket mobilizations, this unprecedented campaign of education, advocacy and enforcement ushered in a new era of air bag, car seat and seat belt safety in which an estimated 20,000 lives were saved.

To honor of this lifesaving achievement, the National Safety Council will make a rare presentation of its Flame of Life Award for the first time in 35 years at this year’s 94th Annual Congress & Expo in San Diego, Nov. 3-10.

The Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign is a coalition of auto makers, insurance companies and traffic safety advocates who came together in response to a national crisis of children dying from air bags and out of a concern that education alone could not influence more people to wear their seat belts.

“The primary purpose of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign has always been to save lives,” said John Ulczycki, director of NSC's Transportation Safety Group and currently executive director of the campaign. “Many years of public education about seat belts prior to the campaign did not substantially change behaviors or increase seat belt use. Seat belt use in America had reached a plateau in the early 1990s at about 60 percent of the adult population.

“For many Americans, however, the threat of getting a traffic ticket for not buckling up works as an inducement to change their behavior. The campaign organized and promoted public education and high visibility enforcement mobilizations, popularly known as America Buckles Up Children and Click it or Ticket. The campaign proved these concepts worked on a broad national scale, enabling state and federal agencies to assume ownership of them. We estimate that the increased use of child restraints and seat belts that occurred during the campaign has helped save more than 20,000 lives over the past 10 years and will save thousands more in the years to come.”

As a result of the campaign’s influence, 82 percent of adults today now wear seat belts compared to 61 percent 10 years ago, and more than 90 percent of children age 1 to 3 are now properly restrained, up from 60 percent in 1996. The rate of children dying aged 12 and under due to impact with air bags has declined 96 percent.

In addition, primary seat belt laws are now in effect in 25 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, up from 11 states when the campaign started. Efforts in other states to enact similar laws continue.

The Click it or Ticket mobilizations are based on the success of a pilot program in North Carolina during the late 1980s that utilized highly visible enforcement methods coupled with the enactment of primary seat belt laws. Beginning with the involvement of about 1,000 law enforcement agencies, Click it or Ticket today involves more than 12,500 agencies across the nation. Funding to promote the mobilizations increased from about $5 million annually from the campaign’s private partners to $30 million in federal appropriations this year alone.

The award was last given in 1971 to the Advertising Council for its work with NSC to raise awareness about traffic safety. The 25-year Ad Council campaign, including Buckle up for Safety, helped reduce the national highway accident death rate by more than half.

Receiving the Flame of Life are the seven principal leaders of the campaign representing NSC officials who managed the campaign, organizations that funded it, and the council’s federal traffic safety partner, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The recipients are:

  • Phillip W. Haseltine, executive director of the campaign from 2004-2006; president, Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety;
  • Timothy Hoyt, vice chair of the campaign; now senior advisor, Mothers Against Drunk Driving;
  • Charles A. Hurley, executive director of the campaign from 2000-2004; now CEO, Mothers Against Drunk Driving;
  • Janet Dewey-Kollen, first executive director of the campaign; now traffic safety consultant with Project Planners Inc.;
  • Dr. Ricardo Martinez, NHTSA Administrator and honorary chair of the campaign from 1996-1999; now executive vice president of medical affairs and regional medical officer, The Schumacher Group;
  • Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, NHTSA Administrator and honorary chair of the campaign from 2001-2005; now chief medical officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
  • Jerry F. Scannell, former president and CEO of NSC; Stephen E. O’Toole, chair of the campaign; director of legislative and regulatory affairs - safety, General Motors; and
  • John Ulczycki, director of NSC’s Transportation Safety Group and current executive director of the campaign.

Also being recognized are the sustaining funders of the campaign: American Honda North America, the Automotive Occupant Restraints Council, BMW of North America, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Hyundai North America, Mazda North America, National Automobile Dealers Association, Nationwide Insurance, Nissan North America, State Farm Insurance, Subaru of America, Takata, Toyota Motor Sales (USA), and Volkswagen of America.

The National Safety Council ( saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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