Law enforcement’s Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign has a little more teeth to it.
The Kansas Legislature passed a bill tripling fines for seat belt violations from $10 to $30 for persons 18 years and older not wearing seat belts in vehicles while in motion.
The new law directs the $20 increase to the Seat Belt Safety Fund, which will be administered by the Kansas Secretary of Transportation, to help fund an expansion of the student-driven Seat belts Are For Everyone (SAFE) program, making it available to every high school in Kansas.
Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said the SAFE program originated through the Kansas Sheriff’s Association and all four high schools in the county participate.
“We have seen an increase in seat belt usage, which I believe is partially in part to the SAFE program,” Richards said. “The program is student-led and provides incentives and accountability for seat belt usage. I think the program is effective and does produce results.”
AAA Kansas is in favor of the fine increase, according to a news release.
“AAA Kansas strongly supports this new law, in hopes the higher fines will provide more of a deterrent to not wearing seat belts,” Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman, said. “An additional positive is that the law assures seat belt education will be available to Kansas high schoolers through the effective SAFE program in the years ahead, funded through voluntary contributions from adults who choose to violate the seat belt usage law. Seat belts are proven to help limit injuries and deaths in crashes.”
In 2016 in Kansas, 435 people died in motor vehicle crashes, making it one of the top 10 causes of unintentional death in Kansas and the number one killer of teens, the release said. According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, 71 percent of all people killed or seriously injured in Kansas wrecks were not wearing seat belts.
Franklin County had five fatalities from vehicle wrecks in 2016 and seven through June 30 of this year.
Here are some facts about seat belts:
• Seat belt use continued to be higher in states in which vehicle occupants can be pulled over solely for not using seat belts, compared to states with weaker enforcement or without seat belt laws. Kansas is a primary seat belt law state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
• Nationally, seat belt use in 2016 reached 90.1 percent, up from 88.5 percent in 2015, according to the administration.
• As of 2016, Kansas had an 87 percent seat belt use rate, according to the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office.
According to AAA Kansas:
• Women are more likely to be belted than men.
• Trucks, which account for about one in five vehicles observed, produce a substantially lower belt use rate (75 percent) than other vehicles (91-93 percent).
• Male truck drivers are the lowest single category of belt users (73 percent).
• Rural counties tend to produce a lower belt use rate than urban counties.
• The more “local” the trip, the less likely occupants are to be buckled up.