Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
News Conference on Traffic Safety
October 16, 2002

Good morning. Thank you for coming.

I’m sure most of you drove here or to work today. I’m glad you made it safely. And I trust you were all wearing seat belts!!

This morning I’d like to announce an important traffic safety milestone:

Washington now has the highest seat belt use rate in the United States. As of this month, 93 percent of Washington motorists buckle up. We are number one, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This achievement is due to the seat belt enforcement legislation that I signed into law last spring. Representative John Lovick of Mill Creek was the sponsor of that legislation. Following passage of the legislation, the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission implemented “Click it or Ticket”—a successful media and enforcement campaign.

I am joined this morning by John Moffat, director of the Commission, and Chief Ronal Serpas of the Washington State Patrol. Under John’s leadership, the Commission has done a great job of managing the “Click it or Ticket” campaign. And Chief Serpas and his troopers have done a great job of enforcement. We’ll hear briefly from director Moffat and Chief Serpas in a few minutes.

Between 1996 and 2002, Washington state seat belt use hovered at around 82 percent. Not bad, considering the national average seat belt use rate is 75 percent.

But we weren’t satisfied with 82 percent. We wanted a higher rate of seat belt use. Because a seat belt doubles your chances of surviving a major collision.

Thanks to last spring’s legislation and “Click it or Ticket,” we’re already seeing tremendous results. We’re proud that our state’s citizens are number one in seat belt use. But we’re even prouder and more grateful that an estimated 22 lives have been saved by this increased use since June 1st. Each year, the Traffic Safety Commission estimates that the seat belt law will save close to 35 lives and prevent 900 serious injuries.

There are additional benefits. Preventing injuries also reduces the medical costs to our society. A study at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center found that 1,800 patients were treated for injuries that could have been prevented if the patients had been wearing seat belts. The taxpayer share of these costs was $22 million! That’s just one hospital in our state. A reduction in injuries will mean a reduction in medical costs paid by taxpayers.

Reducing collision injuries also reduces traffic congestion. The Washington Department of Transportation estimates that 25 percent of our congestion is caused by collisions. If a collision involves injuries, it involves emergency vehicles, police investigations and a bigger DOT response. That typically means longer traffic delays. And more congestion. So reducing injury accidents is one more way to combat traffic congestion. And you know improving our transportation problems is a top priority right now.

Today we’re also unveiling a new holiday traffic safety campaign targeting drunk driving. We’ve had great success with “Click it or Ticket.” Now we want to target drunk driving with a new driver outreach program called “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed.”

Drunk driving is still the single largest cause of fatality collisions in Washington. That’s a crime, and we need to target the criminals. With this new campaign, we will. Our message is clear: Do not drive drunk in Washington or you will be arrested.

The new statewide campaign will feature public service announcements by local police chiefs, sheriffs and State Patrol captains. Other advertising will include banners, posters, fliers and billboards. Here are two examples of the creative campaign.

As you can see, this is a creative approach with a very serious message. John Moffat will have more details in a minute.

Let me close with this: I am proud that our state is number one in seat belt use. But let’s not stop at 93 percent. Let’s keep at it until we’re closer to 100 percent. Let’s not stop until we’ve stopped drunken drivers from endangering lives. And let’s continue making every effort to make our state’s highways safer and better for us and for future generations.

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