April 22, 2001

Determined to reduce the growing number of Hispanics who die in car crashes each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on May 21 launched a nationwide campaign to promote the use of seat belts.

The campaign kicked off in Los Angeles, home of the largest Hispanic community in the country, on Monday, May 21, 2001 at the California Hospital Medical Center.

"Cuida tu vida. Ponte el cinturon" or "Take Care of Your Life. Buckle Up" is the core message of the campaign that has gathered the support of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA), National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and the corporate partnership of Pep Boys, all of which will actively participate in the campaign.

"This campaign continues our efforts to reach Hispanic people, and given the alarming number of car crash victims within this community, we feel it is necessary that we step up our efforts to get out the message to Buckle Up," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. "Safety is the top transportation priority of the Bush Administration, and this campaign underscores the President's commitment to safety for all."

The safety challenge is important for the nation's growing 35.3 million Hispanic population. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics through the age of 24, and the second leading cause of death for Hispanics between the ages of 25-44. Additionally, Hispanics have a significantly higher risk of dying in a car crash than non-Hispanic whites, and they are less likely to wear seat belts. Recent studies showed that the seat belt use rate for Hispanics is 63 percent, compared to the rate for all Americans, 71 percent.

With the support of the campaign's partners, NHTSA expects to get the message to buckle up to millions of Hispanics across the nation. HAPCOA officers will distribute bilingual campaign material on the streets and to local community organizations. Pep Boys will display brochures at front counters in their stores nationwide and post "Buckle Up, America" decals on their stores' window fronts. Around the country, NHMA doctors will counsel injury victims and distribute campaign material to their patients, hoping to see fewer of them return as car crash victims.

To further reinforce the buckle-up message, NHTSA will release public service radio messages in Rap, Tropical and Cumbia versions to the 10 largest Hispanic markets.

"As Hispanics, we must take an active stance in encouraging our community to use seat belts. That's what makes this campaign unique. It's Hispanics helping other Hispanics. We must all partner up on this effort," HAPCOA Executive Director Jess Quintero said.

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