Failure to buckle up may mean ticket or worse

Voices Of The Peninsula

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2004

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 2 and 20. When examining the fatalities, it is apparent that a large number of these deaths could have been prevented if drivers and passengers had simply buckled their safety belts.

Although seat belt use is at a national high of 79 percent, a disproportionate number of those still unbuckled are teenagers and young men in their early twenties.

At 69 percent, safety belt use for teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 continues to lag behind the rest of population. It's important to note that this is a daytime number; we know that nighttime belt use is much lower among teens and young adults.

For many teens, a driver's license is a ticket to freedom. No more car pools. No more embarrassing parental pick-ups and drop-offs at school.

But, tragically, a license is also a ticket to an early death for far too many teens.

So, how do we get this group to buckle up when they think tragedy won't happen to them?

Surround them with the strong message, "Click It or Ticket. If you won't buckle up to save your life, then buckle up to save yourself a ticket," and back it up with strong enforcement.

When it comes to seat belts, years of research and, unfortunately, many thousands of lives lost, show that America's young people don't respond to threats of injury or death.

But they do respond to the threat of a ticket.

The laws for seat belt use are on the books to save lives. The fact is, law enforcement officers would rather write a thousand tickets and enforce these laws than face one more of these predictable and preventable tragedies.

Through June 6, more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies from all 50 states are cracking down on seat belt scofflaws as they conduct the national "Click It or Ticket Mobilization."

The message will be delivered to teens through more than $30 million in congressionally funded, national and state advertising.

Alaska State Troopers, the Kenai Police Department and the Soldotna Police Department are among the agencies out delivering the message through saturation patrols in locations where young people congregate such as schools and shopping malls.

Let it be known now that there will be a policy of zero tolerance associated in all situations where violations are detected. By buckling up, teens will save more than just a hefty fine; they could, in all reality, save their lives.

Remember, it's "Click It or Ticket." No exceptions. No excuses.

Capt. Tom Bowman is the head of the Alaska State Troopers "E" Detachment in Soldotna. John Lucking Jr. is Soldotna's police chief. Chuck Kopp is Kenai's police chief.

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