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Archive for Wednesday, May 13, 1998

POLICE, SHERIFF JOIN EFFORT TO BOOST SEAT BELT USAGE

May 13, 1998

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Police and deputies hope to increase the number of Douglas County residents who use their seat belts every time they get behind the wheel.

Law enforcement officers all have their own reasons for urging motorists to use their seat belts. Mickey DeHook's first day as a police officer in Toledo, Ohio, 30 years ago, gave him four reasons.

Just hours on the job, DeHook was called to an accident scene. Four people, none wearing seat belts, died.

``So often, people feel the government is telling them what to do, but that's not the case here,'' said DeHook, law enforcement liaison with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

``The single most effective means of reducing fatalities and serious injuries is wearing a safety belt,'' he said.

DeHook is traveling the state to promote Buckle Up Kansas, part of President Clinton's Buckle Up America campaign to increase seat belt use. According to studies, 56 percent of Kansans use the devices, compared with 68 percent nationally.

Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson and Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin have joined the Buckle Up efforts and hope to increase seat belt use through education, not enforcement. Although Kansas law requires that drivers and passengers wear safety belts, officers must have another reason to stop them unless there is a person under the age of 14 in the car without a safety restraint.

``I think any of us could drive around Lawrence for 20 minutes and see several small children improperly buckled up,'' Olin said. ``This may be one of several new initiatives. We're very alarmed at the number of people who run red lights and we also have concerns with speeding.''

DeHook said more than 50 Kansas cities are involved in the Buckle Up campaign.

``We've seen the results of what happens when you don't use seat belts, and we'd like to see you use them,'' Anderson said.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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