COLUMBUS - Beginning on Monday, May 22, and continuing through Sunday, June 4, travelers can expect increased law enforcement presence on Cherokee County roadways as the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office joins 160 other law enforcement agencies in aggressively enforcing Kansas occupant restraint and other traffic laws as part of the 2017 Kansas Click It or Ticket campaign. This activity is supported by a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). Enforcement will occur around the clock. Officers will be especially vigilant at night because seatbelt use diminishes after nightfall, meaning the likelihood of unrestrained crash injuries and deaths soars during those hours.

Drivers can expect strict enforcement of both the Kansas Safety Belt Use Act and the Kansas Child Passenger Safety Act. These statutes require that all vehicle occupants must be appropriately restrained. Law enforcement officers can stop vehicles and issue tickets when they observe front seat occupants, teens in any seat position, or children under the age of 14, riding without being properly restrained. Occupants, ages 14 and over, are cited individually. In the event that a passenger under the age of 14 is observed to be unrestrained the driver will be cited. The fine for an adult seat belt violation is $10 (no court costs). The fine for a youth (14-17) violation is $60 (no court costs), while the fine for a child (0-13) restraint violation is $60 + a court cost charge of as much as $108.

Children under the age of four must be correctly secured in an approved child safety seat. Children, ages four through seven, must be securely belted into an approved booster seat unless taller than 4 feet 9 inches or heavier than 80 pounds, in which case, the booster may be removed and the child belted in without it. Children, ages eight through 13 must be safety-belted. In addition, the act prohibits persons under the age of 14 from riding in any part of a vehicle not intended for carrying passengers, such as a pickup bed.

The aim of Click It or Ticket is simple: to drastically reduce the number of preventable deaths and injuries that occur when unbelted drivers and passengers are involved in traffic crashes. According to KDOT, 93 percent of crash occupants who suffer no injuries of any kind are belted in. So, in general, unrestrained occupants who are involved in a crash have, at most, only about a seven percent chance of emerging unscathed, not suffering some degree of injury. While seat belts may not always protect from serious or fatal injury, certainly no other piece of equipment within the vehicle provides more protection.

Kansas’ overall adult seat belt compliance rate is 87 percent and ranges, by county, from 61 percent to 96 percent, with occupants in rural counties generally less likely to buckle up than those in urban counties. According to KDOT, this rural-urban difference in seat belt rates is especially problematic because rural roadway conditions are, in general, less forgiving than those in urban areas and the consequences of driver misjudgment – such as unsafe speed and failure to buckle up – are likely to be more severe. Picture, for example, two lanes, narrow shoulders, ditches on both sides, and random culverts waiting to snag vehicles leaving the roadway. Or, consider the rollover crash, which is so much more prevalent on rural roadways than city streets. One of the grimmest duties a law enforcement officer is called upon to perform is to work a crash where an unrestrained occupant is partially or completely ejected, and then crushed by the rolling vehicle. It is easy to see why fully two-thirds of Kansas’ fatality crashes occur on rural roadways even though they see only one-third of all crashes.

Kansans like to see their state as one which protects children, and it does well with its youngest ones, those aged 0-4, who are buckled in to child safety seats at the rate of 97 percent. However, the percentage of properly restrained 5 to 13-year olds is only 84 percent. Moreover, seven out of ten times when drivers, themselves, are unbelted, their child passengers are also unsecured.

In announcing the campaign, Sheriff David Groves wishes to remind residents that by not buckling up themselves, or requiring their passengers to buckle up, they are, in effect, promising themselves and those passengers, along with family and friends not present, that no circumstance will arise that will ultimately trigger seat belt activation, whether it be due to distraction, sleepiness, kids fighting in the back seat, etc. either in their vehicle or in all the vehicles they meet on the road.

“The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is committed to working hard to keep the motorists on our roadways safe, and in an effort to do so, we will be engaged in this enforcement campaign, but will also be watching for other traffic infractions – such as speeding and texting while driving – which make the need for occupant restraint so necessary,” said Sheriff Groves.