Owensboro Police Department (OPD) was out in full force Thursday afternoon at McDonald’s on 54, but they weren’t issuing citations. Instead, they were handing out dollar bills and free Big Mac coupons to drivers caught wearing their seatbelts.
Several officers stood in each drive through line to talk to motorists about the new “Buckle Up Owensboro: Seat Belts Save Lives!” campaign that was officially kicked off Thursday.
“This was just an idea we had to kick off our campaign and raise awareness in the community,” said OPD Information Officer Michael Hathaway. When McDonald’s was approached with the “Buckle Up for a Buck” idea, they were glad to take part and even supplied free Big Mac coupons to add to the effort.
According to Chief of Police Art Ealum, the goal of the Buckle Up Owensboro campaign is to achieve 100% seat belt and child restraint use. “We need everyone to do their part by making a conscious decision to always buckle up, to always buckle their children in appropriate and properly secured child safety seats and to ensure all other passengers ride buckled up.”
Thursday’s Buckle Up for a Buck initiative at McDonald’s was just the start of the Buckle Up Owensboro: Seat Belts Save Lives campaign, which is a year long initiative with several components. One key element is the formation of a Buckle Up Owensboro Seat Belt Coalition that will be chaired by Deputy Chief Jeff Speed of the OPD and include community leaders and interested citizens. The coalition will reach out to high schools and local businesses to share educational materials, host events, and conduct media outreach to create a long-lasting, healthy traffic safety culture in Owensboro.
OPD has already been highly engaged in traffic safety educational and enforcement efforts such as the annual Click-it-or-Ticket campaign to increase seat belt use. However, the department has now been selected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is teaming with that agency to spearhead the development and implementation of an on-going seat belt campaign to create a “seat belt community” in Owensboro that will serve as a role model for other counties, cities and states.
NHTSA’s Cathy Gillen was on hand for Thursday’s launch event. She said there are about 33,000 people killed each year nationwide and almost 75% of those are unbuckled. In Kentucky, 521 people died in car crashes last year and 61% were not wearing seatbelts. According to NHTSA, lap/shoulder seat belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.
OPD patrol officers will continue enforcing Kentucky’s primary seat belt, booster seat and car seat laws which are outlined below:
- Kentucky’s “Primary Seat Belt Law” allows law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle solely for an occupant restraint violation and not to rely on another violation to initiate the traffic stop;
- Drivers can be cited for anyone in the vehicle who is not buckled up;
- All drivers and passengers must wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt;
- Any driver of a motor vehicle, when transporting a child of 40 inches in height or less shall have the child properly secured in a child restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards;
- Any driver of a motor vehicle, when transporting a child under the age of 8 years who is between 40 inches and 57 inches in height shall have the child properly secured in a child booster seat.
Those who are not properly restrained can face a fine of $25.
For more information or if you are interested in joining the new Coalition, please contact Lt. Gordon Black at 270-687-8827.