Enforcement of Alaska’s seat belt law entered a new phase on Monday. This is the date the state’s tougher new seat belt law went into effect. “Click It or Ticket” is more than a slogan in our community. It’s a reminder that the seat belt law is strictly enforced in and around Kenai/Soldotna.
Why do we take enforcement of the state’s seat belt law so seriously? The reason is simple. Experience shows us that people are involved in motor vehicle crashes for a variety of reasons. But the number one reason that people die or are injured in the crash is that they are not buckled up.
In 2004, 50 of the 92 Alaskans who were killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts. Hundreds more were injured. A study conducted by the Alaska Injury Prevention Center found that $2.6 million of all crash victims’ medical costs annually in Alaska are paid by the public through taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The dangers of not buckling up are underscored during a rollover crash. Unbelted occupants are often thrown from a vehicle and run over by the vehicle itself or hurled against a fixed object. Sometimes, unbelted occupants are only partially ejected and subsequently crushed and killed by the vehicle as it rolls. In 2004, this was all too common: 37 percent of Alaska’s highway fatalities involved a rollover.
For some people, receiving a traffic ticket is the only way to get them to buckle up. And that is why local police and the Alaska State Troopers are stepping up enforcement of the seat belt law. Our officers will conduct high-visibility enforcement to boost compliance.
In all of our years of policing, we have never met anyone who left home thinking they would be in a motor vehicle crash that day. Why not get in the habit of buckling up today and save yourself the hassles of a traffic ticket and perhaps something worse? Wearing your seat belt costs you nothing. Not wearing it could cost you everything.
Law enforcement in and around Kenai/Soldotna is on the lookout for seat belt violators. We would rather write you a ticket than find you dead or critically injured because you were not restrained in a crash. Consider this a friendly warning: “Click It or Ticket.”
Chuck Kopp is chief of the Kenai Police Department, John Lucking is chief of the Soldotna Police Department and Tom Bowman is captain of the Alaska State Troopers E Detachment in Soldotna.
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