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'Click it or Ticket:' It's the Law

May 26, 2004 (04-67)


News Contact: Pete Bodyk, Bureau of Traffic Safety, (785) 296-3756

'Click it or Ticket:' It's the Law

More people under 60 now die from injuries sustained in car crashes than from any other cause.

And, while Kansans are quick to take preventative measures against heart disease or other leading causes of death, many are still unwilling to take advantage of the life-saving advantages provided by seat belts.

Kansans are among the least likely in the nation to wear seat belts. Only 64 percent of adults buckle up, according to a KDOT survey conducted last summer. That woeful performance earned Kansas a ranking of 46th in terms of seat belt use – only Arizona, Mississippi, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have lower compliance rates. The national rate is 79 percent, and in several states the compliance rate exceeds 90 percent.

Sadly, it appears too many of Kansas’ young people are taking a cue from adults and neglecting their seat belts. A survey of seat belt habits among young people conducted over the past two springs revealed only 55 percent of those under 18 buckle up. The lowest compliance rate was among children ages 10-14; only 44 percent were buckled up. Children ages 5-9 also had a low seatbelt usage rate – 45 percent. Children up to age 4 were much more likely to be in compliance with the Kansas child passenger safety belt law, with 79 percent in child car seats.

Beyond the cost in human tragedy, the failure to wear seat belts also carries a hefty price-tag. The federal government estimates Medicaid racks up an annual bill of $26 billion to care for unbelted drivers and to cover their lost productivity. That burden is shared by every American taxpayer.

In the face of these facts, the Kansas Department of Transportation, working in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and law enforcement agencies across Kansas, initiated an aggressive “Click It Or Ticket” effort to persuade Kansans to use their seat belts. The effort is in keeping with the top priority of Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller – to reduce fatalities by increasing seat belt usage.

An advertising and education campaign is now underway, and a statewide enforcement mobilization effort involving law enforcement agencies throughout the state is being mounted through June 6.

Don’t expect a break from law enforcement if you or your passengers are found to be unbelted during a traffic stop. Police have enthusiastically joined this effort to save lives and minimize preventable injuries. Their mission isn’t to punish; it’s to educate.

Special patrols and check lanes will be established throughout the state to look for violations of the Kansas occupant protection law. That law requires all children under age 14 be properly restrained in any seating position in a vehicle; that all children under 4 years of age be secured in an approved child safety seat; and that all vehicle drivers and front seat passengers must be properly restrained with a safety belt.

Law enforcement officials know their aggressive writing of tickets for seat belt violations won’t win them any popularity contests among the motoring public. But, as they say in radio and television ads that are blanketing the state: “We’d rather have you angry than dead.”