Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 25, 2013

Just click it

The best reason to buckle up: It save lives, reduces injuries

The Independent

ASHLAND — As they travel on Memorial Days and the week after the holiday that traditonally marks the beginning of the summer vacation season, drivers would be wise to make sure that they and their passengers are buckled up.

The 2013 “Click It or Ticket” campaign will begin Monay in Kentucky and other participating states and continue through June 2. During the period, law enforcement agencies, led by the Kentucky State Police, have announced that they will be particularly looking to cite drivers who either are not wearing their seat belts or have passengers in their vehicles who are not buckled up.

The campaign is the latest effort to encourage people to use their seat belts, and years of such efforts have been effective. When Kentucky became one of the final three states to enact a mandatory seat belt law in the early 1980s, fewer than 25 percent of drivers and vehicle passengers in the state regularly buckled up. Kentucky legislators were far from enthusiastic about requiring people to use their seat belt laws and let it be known  they were only acting to prevent the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds for state that did not have mandatory seat belt laws.

Not suprisingly, Kentucky’s first mandatory seat belt law was extremely weak prohibitng police officers from stopping motorists for simply not being beckled up and imposing ridiculously low fines for violators.  Nevertheless, seat belt use in Kentucky increased sharply even with the weak law. It increased even more when the Kentucky General Assembly finally made non-seat belt use a primary offense, enabling law enforcement  to stop and cite motorisst simply for not being buckled up.That law did not come easily. Despite the Kentucky State Police named having sea belt use as primary offense as the agency’s top legislative priority, it took three years to convince enough legisaltors to enact such a law.

Today, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety says Kentucky has an 83 percent seat belt usage rate. That puts the state just below the national rate of 86 percent. The office says fatalities on Kentucky roadways last year totaled 746, up from 721 in 2011. It says more than half of those killed were not wearing a seat belt.

If Kentucky’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign convinces more people to buckle up out of fear of being cited, then it is worthwhile, but we can think of a lot better reason to fasten your seat belt when you get into a vehcile: Seat belts save lives and reduce injuries. The statistics supporting seat belt use  are overwhelming, and those who continue to refuse to buckle up even when going a short distance are simply being foolish.