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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2005 Winner: The AAA Clubs of Tennessee

GHSA Highway Safety Awards

AAA Clubs of Tennessee

Prior to 2004, only 20 states and the District of Columbia had enacted a primary enforcement safety belt law. In 2004, one other state joined the list. Thanks in large part to the leadership of the AAA Clubs of Tennessee, Tennessee became number 21.

The state of Tennessee was in dire need of a primary safety belt law. With 1.8 million occupants refusing to buckle up, the state had one of the lowest safety belt usage rates in the country. In 2002 alone, 650 people died in Tennessee while not wearing their safety belt, costing the citizens of the state more than $4.6 billion. NHTSA estimated that over 200 lives could have been saved in one year with the passage of a primary enforcement law.

The AAA Clubs of Tennessee embraced the challenge of improving Tennessee's roadways by leading the support for a primary safety belt bill. Due to the federal lobbying restrictions, the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office and its grantees were unable to lobby for its passage. Therefore, the AAA Clubs' advocacy of the legislation was crucial for the state.

The group established a coalition to convince legislators and the Governor to support this lifesaving legislation. The AAA Clubs worked with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Children's Hospitals Association of Tennessee, Meharry Medical College, the Automobile Retailers Association, State Farm, Bridgestone Firestone and automobile manufacturers in lobbying for the passage of Tennessee's primary enforcement law. House and Senate Transportation Committee members were supplied with comprehensive briefing notebooks on primary safety belt laws, including a Tennessee fact sheet on the benefits of state legislation. A press conference was arranged announcing the introduction of the legislation coinciding with the 2004 highway safety-focused World Health Day. Representatives from NHTSA and the Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta participated in the press conference and testified in support of the legislation. The AAA Clubs also found a chief sponsor, Representative John Hood, who was essential in securing passage of the bill, aggressively working with colleagues to win their support.

Without the leadership of the AAA Clubs of Tennessee, passage of Tennessee's primary safety belt law would not have happened and so many lives would not be saved.

For more information please contact Don Linsey at dlindsey@aaaet.com.