U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 26, 2000
Contact: Bill Adams
Secretary Slater Urges Capitol Hill Conferees to Act On Tough Highway Safety
Underscoring the Clinton
administrations commitment to safety as its top transportation priority, U.S.
Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today urged a House/Senate conference
committee to support two Clinton-Gore administration initiatives to improve
highway safety -- reducing to .08 percent the allowable blood-alcohol
concentration (BAC) for drivers and permitting a rulemaking process to continue
that addresses fatigue and the hours truck and bus drivers can safely work.
"As President Clinton
has said, Congress this year has the opportunity to pass the most significant
legislation to save lives on our nations highways since raising the drinking age
to 21 -- making a .08 alcohol level the law of the land," Secretary Slater
said. "In addition, allowing us to move forward on our hours-of-service
rulemaking will help prevent many deaths and injuries on our roads that result
from commercial truck and bus driver fatigue."
The U.S. Senate version of
the transportation appropriations bill contains the BAC measure but adds a
provision blocking the U.S. Department of Transportation from continuing its
rulemaking process on hours of service for drivers of commercial trucks and
buses. Secretary Slater urged the conferees to retain the Senate provision on
BAC and reject the provision prohibiting the department from further review of
the antiquated, 60-year-old hours of service regulations.
Secretary Slater noted
that of the 40,000 deaths occurring on our nations roads every year, almost
16,000 are alcohol-related. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto
Rico have adopted .08 BAC laws and subsequently experienced reductions in the
number of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.
Secretary Slater announced
a proposed hours-of-service rule on April 25. The proposal would assure adequate
opportunity for rest time so that truck and bus drivers can operate safely. More
than 750 deaths annually are associated with driver fatigue. The comment period
on the proposed rule ends Oct. 30, 2000, and the review process, if not
interrupted, should result in an updated rule by the summer of 2001.
Since the proposal was
issued, the USDOT has been engaged in an active dialogue with interested parties
and the public, and has received about 50,000 comments to date and held eight
public hearings. With the support of Congress and the time to carefully analyze
the comments and data received by the end of the comment period, the USDOT plans
to develop a rule that is practical and enhances safety.
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