Paul McAleer checks the length of the seat belts in his car Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008 in Oak Park, Ill. A new study found that seat belt use declines as body size increases. But even large drivers who want to use a seat belt may be thwarted because not all car makers offer bigger belts or extenders. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
TOPEKA -- Beginning Monday, May 23rd, and running through Sunday, June 5th, look for increased police presence on city streets as the Topeka Police Department aggressively enforces Kansas occupant restraint and other traffic laws as part of the 2011 Kansas Click It or Ticket traffic enforcement campaign. This activity is supported by a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).
Expect strict enforcement of the Safety Belt Use and Child Passenger Safety Acts. These acts require that all occupants must be appropriately restrained. Occupants, age 14 and over, are cited individually. In the event that a passenger under the age of 14 is unrestrained, the driver will be cited. Children under the age of four must be secured in an approved child safety seat.
Children, ages four through seven, must be securely belted into an approved booster seat unless taller than 4 feet 9 inches or heavier than 80 pounds. All other children must be safety-belted. In addition, the act prohibits persons under the age of 14 from riding in any part of a vehicle not intended for carrying passengers, such as a pickup bed.
Across Kansas, nearly 150 law enforcement agencies, including the Kansas Highway Patrol, will be participating in Click It or Ticket. The aim is to drastically reduce the number of preventable deaths and injuries that occur when unbelted drivers and passengers are involved in traffic crashes.
According to KDOT’s Traffic Safety section, Kansas traffic crashes in 2009 claimed the lives of 388 people. Tragically, of those who died, over two-thirds were not belted in. By contrast, 89% of those not even injured were belted in.
Across the state, 82% of front seat passengers buckle up, ranking Kansas 35th among the states for seat belt compliance – and under the national average of 85 percent.
More disheartening to the law enforcement community, however, are low child restraint rates. According to the latest survey by KDOT, on average only about 77 % of Kansas children, of all ages, are restrained. Broken down, 97 % of the youngest ones, aged 0-4, are buckled in; then the rate drops sharply for children, aged 5-9, who are only 76% likely to be restrained; to children, aged 10-13, who are only likely to be restrained 68% of the time.
Everyone knows there are seat belt laws and that seat belt and child safety seats save lives and reduce injury, as well as hold down health care costs for all of us. Too many drivers play the odds and drive unrestrained because, statistically, a crash is unlikely.
The fact is, when a crash does happen – and it’s generally within 5 miles from home – the 2 seconds it took to buckle up looks like a smart investment. The Topeka Police Department is committed to ticketing violators of Kansas passenger restraint laws, and all traffic infractions that make our streets and highways unsafe.