Message to the Congress Transmitting the Annual Reports on Highway, Traffic, and Motor Vehicle Safety Programs

March 21, 1985

To the Congress of the United States:

The Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, both enacted in 1966, initiated a national effort to reduce traffic deaths and injuries and require annual reports on the administration of the Acts. This is the 17th year that these reports have been prepared for your review.

The report on motor vehicle safety includes the annual reporting requirement in Title I of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972 (bumper standards). An annual report also is required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which amended the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and directed the Secretary of Transportation to set, adjust, and enforce motor vehicle fuel economy standards. Similar reporting requirements are contained in the Department of Energy Act of 1978 with respect to the use of advanced technology by the automobile industry. These requirements have been met in the Eighth Annual Fuel Economy Report, the highlights of which are summarized in the motor vehicle safety report.

In the Highway Safety Acts of 1973, 1976, and 1978, the Congress expressed its special interest in certain aspects of traffic safety, which are addressed in the volume on highway safety.

I am pleased to report that traffic fatalities have dropped for the third year in a row. The 42,584 fatalities recorded in 1983, while still unacceptably high and a tragedy to the Nation both in terms of lives lost and the economic consequences of the deaths, represent a 3 percent decrease from the preceding year, and a 17 percent decrease from as recently as 1980 when 51,091 people died in traffic accidents.

In addition, despite large increases in the number of drivers and vehicles, the Federal standards and programs for motor vehicle and highway safety instituted since 1966 have contributed to a significant reduction in the fatality rate per 100 million miles of travel. The fatality rate is a measure of the risk of death that a person is exposed to when travelling. The rate has decreased from 5.5 in the mid-60's to the present level of 2.57, the lowest rate ever recorded. This means that motorists can drive more miles today with less risk. If the 1966 fatality rate had been experienced in 1983, more than 91,000 persons would have lost their lives in traffic accidents.

A substantial number of deaths and injuries on our roadways can be traced in part to some human factor: the driver or passenger who was not wearing a safety belt; the drinking driver who continues to be involved in more than half of the Nation's traffic fatalities; speeding; or the habitual offenders whose privileges to drive have been revoked, but who continue to drive irresponsibly.

I am especially proud that in 1983 we had the safest Christmas holiday season since the late 1940's. The national outrage over drunk driving, combined with tougher State laws and stepped-up enforcement, apparently have caused some people to refrain from driving after they have been drinking.

We will continue to pursue highway and motor vehicle safety programs that are most effective in reducing deaths and injuries. We are placing greater emphasis on the human aspects of traffic safety, reflecting the national concern that emphasis be on those activities that have the most realistic prospect of success, and which yield the maximum safety gain per dollar invested.

I am encouraged by the significant fatality reduction this Nation has experienced over the past three years and am convinced that even more progress can be made to ensure that American motorists and pedestrians will enjoy the greatest level of personal safety possible.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

March 21, 1985.