Beginning next week, the law enforcement and safety agencies in Kansas will join forces to stop what has been an epidemic for the past several years – young drivers and passengers dying in car crashes after not using seat belts.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 24, and running through March 7, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and area local authorities will participate in the annual seatbelt enforcement campaign around area high schools, said Lt. Steve Billinger of the KHP. The SAFE initiative (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) is a program administered by the students of the high school they attend.
Currently, 54 counties totaling 124 schools participate in the program statewide. In central Kansas, counties taking part include Ellis, Russell, Rice and Stafford.
In 2012, according to Kansas Department of Transportation statistics, Kansas tragically lost 43 teens in vehicle crashes, 74 percent of whom were not properly restrained. The KDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology is hosting this two-week awareness campaign in hopes of decreasing that number, and increasing seatbelt usage.
Billinger said car accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged 3-34. In Kansas, single vehicle accidents in rural areas are the leading factor for fatal accidents – early 60 percent.
“Sadly, many of these type of accidents have occupants unrestrained,” he said.
KDOT and law enforcement partners across the state have spent over 20 years educating Kansas teens on the dangers of driving without a seatbelt.
In 2013, the observed seat belt rate for the ages of 15-17 was 81 perecent. To put this into perspective, the rate for the same age group was 61 percent in 2008-09. “This program is making a difference for our youths,” Billinger said.
“Troopers will be working with local law enforcement partners in an aggressive campaign focused around area schools to educate and enforce seat belt laws,” said Colonel Ernest E. Garcia, superintendent of the Patrol. “Seatbelts have been proven to save lives and prevent injuries and our goal is to make sure all young drivers buckle up.”
For the two-week enforcement period, troopers and other officers will be extra-vigilant when patrolling around schools, Garcia said. There should be no surprise when it comes to this enforcement initiative and officers will be targeting motorists who refuse to obey traffic laws. Anyone caught not properly restrained will be issued a citation.