WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Millions of Americans are set to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend and police nationwide are issuing a stern warning to drivers: Buckle up kids or face the consequences.
Police plan to ticket every driver transporting an unrestrained child and are providing a toll-free number for people to report motorists in vehicles where children are unbuckled.
It's all part of Operation ABC Mobilization: America Buckles Up Children, which kicked off today and runs through next Monday. The program is supported by more than 8,100 law enforcement agencies, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and other groups.
Slater said from 1990 to 1998, 15,000 children died in motor vehicle accidents. And though the number of child deaths declined 12 percent from 1996 and 1998, more needs to be done, he said.
``What is most disturbing about all of these grim facts is 60 percent of the children killed were unrestrained,'' Slater said.
Every state has laws requiring young children to either ride in car seats or wear seat belts.
``While the laws vary from state to state by what age and size child they cover, the laws of physics are the same everywhere,'' said Gerry Scannell, president of the National Safety Council. ``Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.''
Joining in the seat belt campaign are members of the Professional Football Players' Mothers Association. They have begun ``Buckle Up for 58'' in honor of Derrick Thomas, a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker and All-Pro who died last winter from injuries sustained in a car crash. Thomas was not wearing a seat belt.
``For the child's safety, please buckle up because that's an important life you are playing with,'' said Edith Morgan, Thomas' mother.
The toll-free number is: 800-764-5755
On the Net: http://www.nsc.org/airbag.htm