Later this month, the Ottawa Police Department will step up seat belt and child safety seat enforcement efforts, especially when patrolling near schools.

From Oct. 28-Nov. 1, the Ottawa Police Department will join other Kansas law enforcement agencies to stop what has been likened to an epidemic in Kansas. In 2016, 44 children ages 0-19 lost their lives due to car crashes in Kansas. Almost half of those children were not wearing their seat belts.

“In the health field, they talk about making sure children have received their immunizations to prevent deadly diseases,” said Sgt. Casey Gillmore, Ottawa Police Department. “But what many parents don’t think about is that wearing a seat belt properly is the best prevention of serious injury or death in a vehicle.”

According to the 2017 Kansas observational seat belt survey, children are much more likely to be buckled up if the driver is wearing a seat belt. If the driver is buckled, about 98% of the children are restrained. If the driver is not buckled, only about 29% of the children observed were buckled.

Beginning Oct. 28, law enforcement across Kansas will be extra-vigilant when patrolling around schools. For more than 20 years, officers have educated and warned drivers and passengers on the importance of using seat belts while in their vehicle. Officers will issue citations to anyone who does not obey Kansas law.

“Even one child’s death is unacceptable," Gillmore said. "Please slow down, especially in school zones, eliminate the distractions and always buckle up.”

For more information about Kansas safety belt laws, go to: www.ktsro.org.