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Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for African Americans under the age of 14, and the second leading cause of death between the ages of 15 to 24,” says Rodney Slater, secretary of the Department of Transportation, who has strongly embraced the Buckle Up America campaign initiated by President Clinton in 1997.
In 1998, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found that black children ages five to 12 are almost three times more likely to face a risk of dying in a motor vehicle than their white counterparts.
This is partly because African Americans do not take the proper precautions for themselves or their children when driving motor vehicles. African American and Hispanic parents admit that more than 18% of the time, their children do not use the appropriate restraints when riding in a vehicle, compared to 13.3% and 15% of whites and other groups, respectively.
Other factors contributing to the great disparity in car crashes between African Americans and whites are miles driven, road conditions, and overloaded cars. However, experts say the lack of seat belt use is a grave contributor.
Dr. Jim Nichols, director of the office of research and traffic records for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says, “Seat belts are approximately 45% to 50% effective in preventing death and severe injury in a car crash or accident.”
Although the rate at which African Americans use safety restraints has increased since 1994, its still 4.4% lower than whites, according to a survey conducted by the NHTSA.