Thursday, April 17, 2014

Law enforcement targeting teen safety with new patrol efforts near schools

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/21/2014

Thirty-one teens lost their lives and 240 were seriously injured in car crashes last year in Kansas.

Seventy-four percent of those teens were not properly restrained, according to state driving statistics.

Thirty-one teens lost their lives and 240 were seriously injured in car crashes last year in Kansas.

Seventy-four percent of those teens were not properly restrained, according to state driving statistics.

In an effort to reverse that trend, officers with the Ottawa Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office plan to join other Kansas law enforcement agencies in being “extra-vigilant” when patrolling around schools, according to new releases from both law enforcement agencies.

The initiative is set to begin Monday and continue through March 7. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies are expected to issue citations to any individual who refuses to obey the traffic laws, whether it is for speeding, texting or failing to buckle up, the releases said.

For more than 20 years, police officers have educated and warned passengers and drivers regarding the importance of using restraints while in their vehicle, but some motorists continue to ignore the state’s seat belt laws, Kansas law enforcement officials said.

“Our goal is to increase seat belt use amongst teens,” Capt. Adam Weingartner, patrol division commander and public information officer for the Ottawa Police Department, said. “Through the SAFE [Seatbelts Are For Everyone] program and Ottawa High School, the student seat belt compliance rate has increased the last two years. Our goal is 100 percent use 100 percent of the time.”

Weingartner said there should be no surprises when it comes to this enforcement effort.

“If you are driving around Ottawa schools, buckle up, don’t text and drive, and obey the speed limit,” he said.

Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said his deputies also would be vigilant in enforcing traffic laws.

“Even one teen death is unacceptable,” he said. “Slow down, don’t text and drive, and always buckle up. Prevention is always better than regret.”

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