An annual weeklong push to remind drivers they need to be wearing seat belts started Monday.
"Even in lower-speed collisions in town, I don't know that people realize that of you have an accident with a car going 20 (mph) and you are going 20, that is a 40 mph collision — that is twice as fast as the fastest NFL football player runs, and you would not want them just hitting you standing still," said Lt. Jason Thompson.
Drivers may notice extra police presence on city streets through Sunday, June 2, and should expect strict enforcement of the Kansas Safety Belt Use Act and the Kansas Child Passenger Safety Act. In Newton, that means extra patrol officers who are dedicated only to seat belt enforcement. The Newton Police Department is reimbursed for the expense of those hours by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"All officers will be looking for that, but we will have officers throughout the day ... who will be looking strictly for child safety seats, texting and driving and if people are using their seat belts," said Lt. Jason Thompson. "Most of those will result in being cited for not wearing their seat belts."
Officers can stop vehicles and issue tickets when they observe occupants riding without proper restraint. Occupants age 14 and over are cited individually. If a passenger under the age of 14 is unrestrained, the driver will be cited. The fine for an adult (18 and older) seat belt violation is $30. The fine for a youth (ages 14-17) violation is $60, while the fine for a child (0-13) violation is $60 plus a court cost of $80.
According to KDOT, more than 50 percent of traffic fatalities in Kansas in 2017 were unrestrained. Many of these individuals could have survived the car crash if they had worn a seat belt. In 2018, the Kansas observed seat belt usage was 84 percent, below the national average of 90 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
More than 180 Kansas law enforcement agencies participate in Click It or Ticket, which is supported by a grant from KDOT.