Published on -5/25/2012, 9:44 AM
With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, summer is ready to officially begin. Pools are opening, grills will be billowing smoke, and family and friends will be gathering to enjoy the festivities. While 30 mph winds might bother residents in other parts of the country, on the Plains they're just part of the season. Bring it on. And make my hamburger medium-well while you're at it.
Not everything about the weekend is fun and games, however. The holiday marks the start of summer-travel season as well. The increased traffic brings added caution -- or at least should.
Statistics tend to bear out not everybody pays attention as much as you'd expect. Accidents happen more frequently on highways, lakes and in backyard pools. Not all are preventable, but most certainly are.
To help motorists in particular, law enforcement agencies throughout Kansas will be working overtime through the three-day weekend. The annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign is underway, with special attention being paid to those not buckling up.
Kansas is one of 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, whose laws allow a vehicle to be stopped solely because occupants are not properly restrained. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers, sheriff's deputies and police officers also will be enforcing seatbelt laws at night, since Kansas exceeds national statistics for deaths of unrestrained riders in darkness.
Nationwide in 2010, the latest year for which data is available, 61 percent of the 10,647 passenger vehicle occupants who died in motor vehicle traffic crashes during primarily nighttime hour were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the fatal crash. In primarily daylight hours, the rate is 42 percent.
In Kansas by comparison, 76 percent of the 154 passenger vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the fatal crash, compared with 57 percent during the daytime hours.
The Click It or Ticket program will run through June 5.
"We will be out in force, and we will not hesitate to ticket those who are in violation of the state's occupant protection law," said Lt. Harold Tillman, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. "Support for the Click It Or Ticket program is agency-wide, starting right at the top with our superintendent (Col. William Seck)."
Consider yourself forewarned. Be safe no matter what activities you pursue this Memorial Day weekend.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry