Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

Basehor police officers checking for seatbelt use

$2,500 grant helps finance local police participation in national campaign

May 26, 2005

Basehor Police Chief Terry Horner said motorists passing through Basehor without wearing a seatbelt can expect two things.

First, they can expect to meet the extra Basehor police officers who are hitting the streets enforcing Kansas traffic laws during a "Click It or Ticket" campaign. Second, motorists and passengers who fail to buckle up should also know they are running a dangerous risk.

The seatbelt enforcement effort began Monday, May 23. It will continue through June 5, as extra officers from the Basehor Police Department canvass the city's streets during the campaign. Because the local department received $2,500 in grant money to pay overtime wages for participating officers, the program will not cost the city of Basehor a cent, Horner said.

"It is an excellent way to increase manpower and put extra officers on the street without having the city of Basehor foot the bill," Horner said.

Citing unenviable figures compiled by the Kansas Department of Transportation that ranks Kansans' seatbelt usage well below the national average, Horner said this year's campaign is important.

State officials said they observed 58,000 vehicles in 20 Kansas counties, and 68 percent of Kansas adults wore seatbelts during that observation. That compares with the nationwide average of 80 percent.

"The state average is not very good and we have a long way to go to in terms of getting motorists in the state of Kansas actually using seatbelts," Horner said.

The goal of the program is just that.

Horner said officers are not participating in the program because they have a great love for issuing citations. Instead, he said, the department is hoping the program will alter some bad habits that drivers and passengers have picked up.

"We Americans are creatures of habit," he said. "We are very routine. We hope this campaign is what it takes to get people back in the habit of putting their seatbelts on, whether it is just because they know officers will be out their looking for it or not."

During the program, as well as in all other times throughout the year, officers will issue one or more citations to motorists who are not wearing a seatbelt and who were stopped for cited for another moving violation. Kansas law holds that front seat passengers must be buckled in.

However, the Kansas Safety Belt Use Act is flawed in Horner's eyes. Because it is a secondary law, drivers cannot be cited for seatbelt violations unless they are stopped and cited for breaking a primary law.

Horner said Kansas should make safety belt requirements a primary law.

"It make sense for it to be a primary law," he said. "Simply because it could get the (usage) numbers up into the 70 and 80 percentiles."

Another Kansas law, the Child Passenger Safety Act is a primary law. It requires children younger than 4 to use a federally approved child safety seat and children between the ages of 4 and 14 to be protected by a safety belt.

Horner said officers know well what can happen when drivers and passengers do not buckle up.

"From the fatalities I have been involved in, by directly working or through assisting an other agency with, I have found that the ones who are actually wearing their seatbelts are much more likely to be able to survive a high-impact crash versus the ones who don't wear a seatbelt at all," he said. "In my years of being involved in working accidents, I can tell you that seatbelts can save lives."

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