Seat belt enforcement needs to be a high priority for law enforcement.

by Lance Smith
 It’s early morning in mid-May 2008 and we are holding a Click It or Ticket enforcement at one of our area high schools.
For the next hour-and-a-half we stand at every entrance to the high school’s parking lots and watch for students who are not buckled as they come to school. The law states it’s a primary violation for anyone under 18 years of age to not be properly buckled up in a vehicle. Also if the person not wearing a seat belt is 14 to 17 years of age, officers write them the citation.
Officers wrote 30 seat belt citations that morning, so I decided to do the same thing at the other four county high schools that same week. Officers wrote a total of 109 citations for no seat belts that week just at the high schools.
When the 2009 Click It or Ticket campaign started, I decided to do the same thing again. The same week in 2009, officers wrote 43 citations for no seat belt. It was nice to see the numbers go down, but one citation is too many.
We have also done this type of enforcement other times of the year at elementary and middle schools. We find that if we get out of our patrol cars and greet people as they are pulling into a parking lot or drive, you can see much better if there are kids or adults unbuckled in the vehicle. We also have had very positive responses from the schools while our officers are there. Some of the schools have even done announcements after we are done telling how many citations we wrote for not wearing seat belts and emphasizing how important it is to always wear them.
As law enforcement officers we have to think outside the box sometimes to enforce the law. Also sometimes a ticket is what it takes to educate a driver or occupant that it’s not okay for them or a child to be unbuckled.
In 20 years of law enforcement, I have seen too many times the damage that can happen to the human body if they are not properly seat belted during a crash.
Every law enforcement officer needs to make seat belt enforcement a high priority to save lives.

Lance Smith is a Patrol Sergeant for the Reno County Sheriff's Office.

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