While seat belt use has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s around the country, jumping from 15 percent in 1984 to 71 percent today, many people continue to fail to use seat belts during those short local trips when they're most likely to be involved in a traffic crash.
That's why law enforcement agencies in Oregon will kickoff the summer season by stepping up enforcement during the Buckle Up America! Week/Operation ABC Mobilization leading up to the Memorial Day holiday extended weekend.
The project is the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the country as more than 10,000 agencies have committed to enforcing safety restraint laws May 21 to 28. During this year's effort, enforcement agencies are asked to focus on safety restraint use in community settings as well as on state and interstate highways where restraint use is highest.
"While many people buckle up every time they get into a motor vehicle, many others wait until they get on a highway or start a long trip," said Captain Peter Spirup, director of the Oregon State Police Patrol Services Division. "Through our participation in this enforcement effort leading into the summer recreation season, we hope to change that thinking so more people will buckle up for the short, routine trips in their community as well as the long trips out on the highways."
Oregon continues to be among the leaders around the nation in the use of seat belts. Eighty-eight percent of Oregon's general population rides restrained in passenger vehicles, according to ODOT's 1999 statewide Occupant Protection Observation Study. That's up from the 1990 to 1994 average when about 70 percent of the general population rode restrained in passenger vehicles. Despite these significant increases statewide during the past decade, ODOT cautions that lower use rates are still observed in rural ares and city streets.
To help promote the proper use of safety restraints and safe driving generally, the Oregon State Police will work in conjunction with many local laws enforcement agencies by using overtime grant funding to put more troopers out on the highways.
"Our troopers want to save lives, not just issue tickets," said Spirup. "You can avoid a ticket by driving safely and buckling up on every trip and every time you get in a vehicle, no matter how close your destination is." During last year's eight-day mobilization enforcement campaign, OSP Troopers issued 517 adult safety belt and child restraint citations along with 150 additional warnings for these violations.
Unfortunately, nine individuals were killed in traffic crashes on Oregon's highways during last year's mobilization period -- an increase from the 1999 period when five people were killed. Four of the nine fatalities occurred during the three-day Memorial Day holiday period, May 25 to 28, and the State Police hope that the increased enforcement will have a positive impact on preventing these serious crashes.
With three major holidays during the summer months, statistics indicate that there is an increase in drinking and driving. "Many traffic stops for safety restraint violations uncover more serious problems such as impaired drivers," added Spirup.
Since 1985, alcohol has been involved in an average of 61 percent of Memorial Day traffic fatalities, 49 percent of Independence Day fatalities, and 66 percent of Labor Day fatalities. To help prevent alcohol and/or drug impaired driving incidents, a tollfree phone number is available to report suspected intoxicated drivers to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-24 DRUNK (1-800-243-7865), or call 911.
The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of transportation offers the following traffic safety tips for your holiday and vacation travel plans:
* Check you car or have it serviced before any long trip.
* Pack an emergency kit that includes water, snacks, jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, equipment to change a tire and a first aid kit.
* Ensure your gas tank has a sufficient supply to avoid running out of gas in a remote area.
* Require all occupants to buckle up, with children less than 12 years of age properly restrained in safety seats or safety belts in the back seat.
* Respect posted speed limits, traffic control devices and signs.
* Don't drink and drive. Have a designated driver.
* Get plenty of rest before starting your trip. During your trip, take frequent breaks at least every two hours to avoid driving while fatigued.
To help prepare for highway travel any time of the year, ODOT's travel advisory web site, TripCheck, is the place to go for information at www.tripcheck.com. Visit the web site at www.osp.state.or.us.