Local man reminds drivers to ‘Buckle up’
After working as a paramedic -- and after seeing demolished vehicles roll into his shop -- Gary Carbaugh's convinced that seatbelts are effective in saving lives and preventing injuries.
So during the holiday season, Carbaugh has moved badly damaged vehicles to sites throughout Leavenworth County -- including one at Tonganoxie's Sonic Drive-In -- in an effort to drive home a point.
"I'm hoping, if we can get one person to buckle up, it can help save a life," said Carbaugh, collision repair manager at Speedway auto groups in Leavenworth. "If one person will put on their seatbelt after looking at one of these cars, maybe it will help."
The message is simple, Carbaugh said. He's moved vehicles involved in serious accidents to Sonic in Tonganoxie; to Kmart in Leavenworth; and to a site on Fort Leavenworth. Signs near the vehicles simply said: We care for your safety. Please buckle up.
On Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m., a child-safety seat check lane will be set up at Sonic in Tonganoxie -- during the same time that Santa Claus will be at the fast-food restaurant.
Carbaugh said that Speedway, along with the Leavenworth County sheriff's office and the Leavenworth Police Department, are sponsoring the check lane.
"If we find some that are unsafe, we'll replace them free of charge," Carbaugh said.
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, here's the percentage of seatbelt use in Leavenworth County, in Kansas and in the United States during the past few years:
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Leavenworth County 59 68 65 48 72 71
Kansas 63 61 60 61 64 68
United States 67 71 73 75 79 not available
Carbaugh, who lives in Tonganoxie, said he vividly remembers a Kansas Highway Patrol presentation made when he was in high school. The troopers showed students a black Mustang that had been involved in an alcohol-related accident.
"It really impacted me," he said. "If I can impact the public -- and I'm sorry if it's an eyesore -- but if it makes a difference, that's what counts."
Before becoming a body shop manager, Carbaugh worked for Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Service.
"I've worked the calls," he said. "I've been there. I've done that. I've seen both sides of the fence. When I see a vehicle come in here, based on my experience, you can piece the scene together in your head about what might have happened in the accident.
"I have seen how a simple, making it click could have saved a life. Hey guys, it's real easy. Just make a click."
Like Carbaugh, Lt. John Eichkorn of the Kansas Highway Patrol is a strong proponent of seatbelt use.
And he noted that the use of seatbelts in Leavenworth County is higher than the state average.
"That is good," he said. "We still have some room to grow."
The highway patrol backs a primary seatbelt law that would allow law enforcement officials to stop vehicles if occupants do not use seat belts.
Currently, motorists in Kansas can be cited for not using seatbelts, only if their vehicle is stopped for another reason, the trooper said.
"In a primary law situation, a person could be stopped and cited for that alone," Eichkorn said.
Kansas law does allow law enforcement officers to stop and ticket motorists for not having a child under age 14 in a child-safety seat or in a seat belt, depending on the child's age.