Starting on March 15, the Columbia Police Department will be joining an aggressive statewide law enforcement campaign to enforce seat belt use amount youth.
The campaign seeks to crack down on youth seatbelt violators while simultaneously reducing highway fatalities, according to a CPD news release. It will end March 30.
On average, only 66 percent of Missouri teens wear their seatbelts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Through this aggressive campaign, CPD hopes to reduce teen fatalities. Eight out of 10 teens killed in motor vehicle crashes were unbuckled at the time of the accident.
The campaign only lasts two weeks, but these violations are always enforced by CPD, said Sgt. Curtis Perkins, CPD's Traffic Unit supervisor.
“This campaign period just highlights a statewide effort and brings attention and education for young drivers to wear their seatbelt,” Perkins said.
Although not all teens buckle up, teenagers are required to wear a seatbelt under the Graduated Driver’s License law. According to GDL law, teenagers can be pulled over solely for not wearing a seatbelt while driving or riding a motor vehicle.
The purpose of the GDL law is to encourage buckling up, as seatbelt usage is the No. 1 way to ensure protection and save lives during motor vehicle crashes.
Seatbelt protection violations are the same for both adults and young drivers. Still, drivers ages 16 through 18 can face extra punishments if additional passengers are not buckled up.
The Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Safety Division is helping to pay officers who work overtime to enforce the youth seatbelt campaign with a grant.
Officers will increase their presence near Columbia high schools and other areas where young drivers typically travel frequently. Besides deterrence, officers will act as spotters to look for young drivers who are not buckled up.
A study conducted by Missouri Department of Transportation indicated that only 65 percent of Hickman High School drivers and 85 percent of Rock Bridge High School drivers were wearing their seatbelts.
Through this campaign, CPD hopes to see these numbers rise.
“I would like to see 100 percent usage, as seatbelts have proven to save lives,” Perkins said.