Statement on the Passing of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA-5th)

  • July 18, 2020
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / / 301-442-2249 (C)


Statement of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety on the Passing of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA-5th)

Civil Rights Icon Made Historic Contributions to Motorcoach and Highway Safety

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) mourns the loss of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA-5th) who died yesterday at the age of 80.

Advocates’ President Cathy Chase said, “As the gentleman known as the conscience of the Congress, Congressman John Lewis was a persistent and consistent voice for change.  In addition to his nearly life-long legacy of advancing civil rights, Congressman Lewis was dedicated to highway and vehicle safety.  I will never forget when he testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade in 2012 in support of his bill, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act.  The room was silent, and everyone listened with rapt attention as he said, ‘For me, buses are very personal, very important.  I grew up taking motorcoach buses – in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sent me a bus ticket to meet him for the first time, and later I joined thousands of Freedom Riders to desegregate interstate commerce.  I know all too well that buses are the lifeline of our nation, a major means of transportation for all Americans — sporting teams, students, and tourists — in every corner of our country.  Is it wrong to push for them to be safe?’  His unwavering leadership and dedication together with motorcoach crash victims’ families, the safety community and his colleagues in Congress from both sides of the aisle led to enactment of the bill that same year.  Congressman Lewis was a recipient of the inaugural Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Highway Safety Leadership Award for Congressional courage in advancing safety in 2014 as well as the Highway Safety Leader Award in 2010.  His strong voice of moral clarity and contributions as a public servant who was committed to ensuring the safety of all road users will live on for generations.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Congressman’s family, friends and staff.”

“The safety community is profoundly sad to learn of the death of Congressman John Lewis,” said Jackie Gillan, Advocates’ President Emeritus.  “He will always be remembered as a champion of protecting the civil rights of all.  However, he also was a champion of protecting the safety of families traveling on our roads and highways.  Among his many contributions, Congressman Lewis was the sponsor of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, signed into law on July 6, 2012.  He was personally moved by a motorcoach crash that occurred in his Atlanta congressional district involving the baseball team of Ohio’s Bluffton University on their way to a spring tournament.  The crash killed seven people including five baseball players, and many more were injured.  In the aftermath of that horrific crash, the legislation he introduced and advanced into law mandated overdue safety improvements by finally requiring 3-point seat belts and other lifesaving features on new motorcoaches.  Every year, hundreds of millions of motorcoach trips are taken in the United States, and every year millions of Americans are safer on their journey because of the leadership of Congressman Lewis.”

Joan Claybrook, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Advocates’ Board member said, “Congressman Lewis was an American original and icon for his brave, insightful and persistent battles to make this country live up to the ideals of its founders of justice, fairness and equality.  He was a gentle leader who changed America with righteousness, civil protest and legislative action.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.