City increases seat-belt patrols
Tonganoxie police officers plan to step up efforts to make sure drivers and passengers use seat belts, especially where children are concerned.
"Parents have the responsibility to make sure that their children are safe not doing that borderlines on child endangerment, which is a crime," said Tonganoxie police chief Ken Carpenter. "There is no excuse not to use a safety belt, even if they aren't driving far from home."
According to Mickey DeHook, law enforcement liaison for the Kansas Department of Transportation, when it comes to seat belt usage, Kansas doesn't look good.
"Kansas currently has a 61 percent safety belt usage," DeHook said. "The national average is 70 percent."
Moreover, in 2000, the usage rate for Kansans was 63 percent.
"So we've dropped 2 percent," DeHook added.
To reinforce the importance of using seat belts, DeHook recently gave a certificate of commitment to officers of the Tonganoxie Police Department who are promoting and enforcing the use of safety belts and child safety seats.
Carpenter said Kansas remains a state where drivers can not be stopped for a seat belt violation.
"However, regarding child safety seats, we can stop for a primary violation," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said that recently, his officers have been patrolling, checking for child safety seat violators.
"We take enforcement of the seat belt law seriously," Carpenter said. "I think it does help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities."
This takes on greater importance, considering the high number of sport utility vehicles, which tend to roll over, Carpenter said.
"In a rollover accident without a seat belt on, you're quite likely to be injured," Carpenter said.
Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, DeHook said.
DeHook said there seems to be an attitude that seat belts aren't needed when driving in a small town, such as Tonganoxie.
"With today's airbags, if you're not buckled up and you're involved in a minor traffic crash at 30 mph, there's a good chance you could die," DeHook said.
He explained that airbags are deployed at 300 mph.
"You could break your neck and die from it," he said.
Carpenter said this is why his department is stepping up on enforcement of seat belt usage.
"We are concerned with the safety of the residents of Tonganoxie and the only way we can do anything is by enforcing the laws," Carpenter said.