It’s time for another busy Labor Day weekend in Kansas and nationwide.
The holiday that marks the end of summer for many often includes travel. With that in mind, law enforcement officials have crafted another strategy designed to encourage people to be safe on the road — while giving them a chance to make a little money along the way.
A joint effort of Safe Kids Kansas (sponsored in part by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment), the Kansas Department of Transportation and State Farm has produced “Bucks for Buckles” in cities across the state. The promotion, which runs through Sept. 8 in Kansas, has volunteers at random intersections handing out dollar bills to motorists if everyone in their vehicle is securely buckled up. Those riding unrestrained will receive educational materials about the effectiveness of seat belts and child-safety seats in protecting people of all ages.
Those who skip wearing a seat belt should know buckling up is a proven lifesaver. More than half of the people killed in vehicle crashes in recent years in Kansas were not wearing a seat belt. Seat-belt usage also sharply reduces the likelihood of suffering serious injury in a crash.
Considering as much, it's alarming to know people still refuse to wear a seat belt for whatever reason, whether it's stubbornness in resisting a governmental mandate — even one put in place to keep them safe — to the supposed annoyance and inconvenience of wearing a seat belt.
Drivers of pickups, youths and adult men are more likely to not use seat belts. The same goes for people living in rural parts of the state.
In recent studies, the percentage of Kansans observed wearing a seat belt lagged behind the national average of 90 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which also noted Kansas ranked 43rd in seat-belt use in 2017 among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Clearly, the Sunflower State has room for improvement.
To that end, adults have to set a better example. Children rely on their parents and guardians to protect them. Law enforcement officers stand ready to penalize motorists who make the horrible decision to not have children in their vehicles in proper safety restraints.
When children are routinely buckled up, it’s more likely to become a habit as they grow older. Seat-belt compliance will rise, with more lives saved.
Law enforcement agencies are known for various campaigns designed to boost seat-belt usage. “Bucks for Buckles” is one more push to drive home the safety-minded practice.
While we do appreciate the “Bucks for Buckles” effort for raising awareness of the need to wear a seat belt, it shouldn’t take a small monetary offer to compel people to buckle up. It’s also worth noting that in Kansas, law enforcement officers can stop motorists for that offense alone. A fine for not wearing a seat belt (a $30 ticket) should be a deterrent.
Financial gains or losses may play a part in decision-making, but the most important consideration should be in how wearing a seat belt could prevent a tragic outcome. Of course, motorists also should slow down, not drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, and avoid cell phone and other distractions when possible.
Stay safe on the roads this Labor Day weekend and beyond.