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Rumsfeld Urges Driving Safety as Holidays Approach

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2003 – As many military members take to the nation's highways to visit family and friends for the holiday season, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants to make sure they come back to duty safe and sound.

In a Dec. 20 message to all Defense Department activities, the secretary said traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for men and women in uniform. "Last year, we lost 284 service members in private motor vehicle crashes," Rumsfeld said. "We can prevent this needless loss of lives.

"I am counting on each and every one of you to exercise good judgment in your celebrations," he continued. "Drive defensively. Wear your seat belts. Wear your motorcycle protective gear."

Most importantly, the secretary said in wishing military people a happy and safe holiday, "Don't drink and drive."

In declaring December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month, President Bush said more than 17,000 people were killed and 258,000 more were injured last year in alcohol- related crashes.

In a May 19 memo to the services, Rumsfeld set a goal for DoD to reduce accidents and accident rates by 50 percent in two years. He wrote in the memo that the goal is achievable, and that success would "directly increase our operational readiness."

"We owe no less to the men and women who defend our nation," Rumsfeld wrote.

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