In a keynote address delivered to a recent meeting of the Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans, U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) informed the panel that the seat belt campaign was vitally important, not only as a safety issue but also as a health initiative nationwide.

Congressman Conyers called for civil rights, faith-based, student, community and professional African-American organizations to work together to seek funds from public and private sources to make the campaign effective.

“As one who is working on universal health coverage and injury prevention, I am very pleased to see the Panel energizing this campaign to save lives,” Conyers states. “We need to break old habits.”


A study by Meharry Medical College, the historically black health professions institution in Nashville, showed that if more African Americans would buckle up, 1,300 lives could be saved every year. Statistics also indicate that failure to use seat belts is the number one killer of African-American children age 14 and younger and the number two killer of African-American men ages 18-25.

This study, which demonstrated the overwhelming impact of auto crashes among African Americans, led General Motors, the nation’s leading automaker, to join the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil right organization, in a car seat campaign on behalf of low-income families.

The car seat program, initiated through the leadership of NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, began in Michigan where the NAACP Detroit chapter, led by its President, Reverend Wendell Anthony, distributed 20,000 child safety seats. The NAACP, General Motors, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and National Safekids are the main program partners. In order to receive a free seat, parents watched an educational video and received a hands-on demonstration on correct car seat installation and use. A 25-city campaign will continue the initiative to increase car seat use among low-income families.

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