by Mark Parkinson
Over the past few years, we’ve taken considerable steps to make Kansas roads safer. In 2006, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, advocates and law enforcement officials came together to pass the Booster Seat Law, which requires children to ride in a safety seat until they turn eight years old. To put it simply - seat belts are designed for adults, and they aren’t as effective in protecting young children without a safety seat. In fact, booster seats for kids younger than eight can reduce the chance of injury by nearly 60 percent.
This past legislative session we passed safer requirements for issuing driving permits and drivers licenses for Kansans younger than 17 years old. Today’s teenager faces many more challenges on the roads then they did just a few years ago —higher speed limits, faster cars, cell phones . . . the list goes on and on.
It made sense that with all these changes, we needed to change the way we thought about what makes a safe driver. The steps we’ve taken have been needed and they have been important, but there are still areas where we can improve the safety of our roads.
We need to be more vigilant in wearing seatbelts; we need to encourage passengers in our cars, or our friends when they’re driving, to buckle-up. The seat belt usage rate in Kansas is 77 percent; that’s ten percent below the average of states that can pull over drivers for not wearing a seatbelt. That ten percent difference equates to an estimated 30 lives that could be saved in Kansas each year.
Of course, if you wear your seat belt every time you drive, you might be wondering what the incentive is for you to have others buckle up. The incentive is financial - 85 percent of the medical costs associated with vehicle accidents are passed on to everyone else through higher insurance costs, public health costs and law enforcement costs. As Kansas Transportation Secretary Miller has said, “the choice not to wear a seat belt costs you, costs me, and costs all Kansans.”
When it comes to traffic safety, we all have a role to play —from making sure our children are in the proper safety seat, to making sure each passenger is buckled up. It’s a simple solution that can save us all so much. I encourage parents to learn more at www.kansasboosterseat.org or call the booster seat education hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-416-2522.
Mark Parkinson is the Governor of Kansas.