Drivers in Kansas can get a ticket for not wearing their seat belts, and high school students in Douglas County will be under extra scrutiny for the next two weeks.
Starting Monday, the Kansas Highway Patrol is sending troopers to check seat belts and write tickets at Lawrence and Eudora high schools as part of an annual two-week enforcement effort that continues until March 22, said Lt. Joshua Kellerman, a highway patrol spokesman.
Free State High School and Eudora High School are specifically on troopers' list of schools to check, Kellerman said.
The reason for increased enforcement is that a disproportionate number of teenagers are still dying in car accidents while not wearing seat belts, according to a news release issued by the highway patrol. Of 43 Kansas teenagers who were killed in crashes last year, 74 percent were not wearing their seat belts.
That figure was 63 percent for the general population of motorists, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT is promoting the highway patrol's two-week enforcement campaign.
Col. Ernest Garcia, superintendent of the highway patrol, wrote in an announcement of the campaign that troopers would much rather find teenagers safely buckled up than write a ticket.
“Teenagers are at an exciting time in their lives, with many events ahead of them — spring break, prom, graduation, state sporting events. We want them to be able to enjoy these activities, and not spend their time in a hospital bed recovering from injuries sustained in a crash," Garcia wrote. "Or even worse, not make it after being involved in a crash.”
Kansas law mandates a minimum of a $60 ticket for drivers and passengers ages 14 to 17 who are cited for not wearing a seat belt. The ticket is $10 for those 18 and older.
Police can stop a car for the sole reason of a seat-belt violation in the front seats of the vehicle, according to state law. If the back-seat passengers are the only ones in violation, police can cite them only if they have also been cited for another violation.