Our Opinion: Enforcement effort focuses on unbelted teen drivers

Teen drivers who get pulled over during an upcoming seat belt enforcement will be lucky ones.

The young people who are reminded to buckle up will be less likely to be injured or killed in a crash.

Jefferson City police officers will participate from Friday through March 31 in a statewide effort to crack down on unbelted teen drivers.

“Many drivers take the attitude that ‘it will never happen to me,’ especially teens, but fatal crashes happen every day to all types of people,” said Leanna Depue, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.

The sad statistics are that unbuckled teens suffer injury or death all too frequently. Consider these facts from the coalition:

• One in four Missouri traffic crashes involves a young driver.

• Between 2010-12, 243 teens ages 15-19 died in traffic crashes.

• Among those fatalities, 78 percent were unbuckled.

The upcoming enforcement campaign is designed to stop the carnage by encouraging teens to join the majority of their peers — 66 percent — who wear seat belts as drivers or passengers.

In addition to the reduced risk, teens who buckle up avoid penalties for violating the law.

The Graduated Driver’s License law lists failure to wear a seat belt as a primary offense, meaning teens can be pulled over for not being buckled up.

(The requirement differs from the secondary offense for adults — another example of the state’s double-standard statutes that apply differently based on age. But those silly disparities are not our focus today.)

“Local motorists should be prepared for stepped-up seat belt enforcement,” said Jefferson City Police Chief Roger Schroeder. “We’ll be out there to remind you seat belts can — and do — save lives.”

A way to prepare for the upcoming enforcement is to begin the habit of wearing a seat belt.

No one can prevent being involved in a traffic accident, but we all can protect ourselves by buckling up.

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