Opinion

Opinion

Lifesaving act

Traffic statistics make a strong case for wearing your seat belt.

May 26, 2011

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Kansas law enforcement officers are in the middle of delivering a timely reminder that wearing seat belts not only saves lives; it’s required by law.

The “Click It Or Ticket” campaign started Monday and will run through June 5. During that time, about 150 Kansas law enforcement agencies plan to step up enforcement of the state’s seat-belt laws.

It’s been almost a year since the state’s new law went into effect making not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, meaning officers now can pull someone over simply for not using a seat belt. When seat-belt violations were only secondary offenses, officers could issue a ticket but only if they had some other reason to stop a motorist in the first place.

Already, the numbers show the new law may be saving lives.

In a report on seat-belt usage supplied by the Kansas Department of Transportation, it appears the new law had an immediate impact. The annual survey of seat-belt usage is taken in June and July. In 2008 and 2009, 77 percent of Kansans reportedly were wearing seat belts; in 2010, that number rose to 82 percent. The new primary seat-belt law went into effect on June 30, 2010, right in the middle of the 2010 count.

Even more important is the decline in the number of traffic deaths. Through May 23, the state had recorded 106 traffic fatalities this year. That number still is too high, but it is well behind the pace of 2010, when the state had a total of 385 traffic deaths.

There is no question that wearing a seat belt reduces the chances of injury or death in case of a traffic accident. Nonetheless, legally requiring Kansans to “click it” provides the added incentive many of us needed to develop the seat-belt habit.

The upcoming three-day Memorial Day weekend will find many Kansans on the road. The increased enforcement that will span that period will provide a good reminder of the state’s seat-belt laws — and probably save some lives.

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