News Release

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Sergeant Michael B. Webb
Kentucky State Police
Public Affairs Branch
Office (502) 782-1780

Kentucky State Police Seatbelt Crackdown
Boosted By Largest Federal Advertising Investment To Reach Those Least Likely To Buckle Up

image of Buckle Up Chuck(FRANKFORT, KY) - Kentuckians will be surrounded with the strong message, "Buckle up Kentucky" - It´s the Law and It´s Enforced" as the Kentucky State Police join more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies in a nationwide crack down on those who violate seat belt laws. The message will be targeted particularly to teens and young adults, the age group least likely to buckle up. The "It´s the Law and It´s Enforced" message will be seen and heard in television and radio ads and through enforcement events conducted by both state and local law enforcement agencies all across the state.

The two-week enforcement wave, which runs from May 24 through June 6, will be supported by more than $30 million in Congressionally-funded national and state advertising. The Kentucky Governor´s Highway Safety Program is publicizing the enforcement mobilization through innovative new television commercials featuring "Buckle Up Chuck," an animated character derived from the seat belt warning indicator light found on all vehicle dashboards. Radio ads using "Chuck´s" voice have also been developed. The ads will air through May 30th during TV and radio programming that appeals to young adults.

Last May, the nationwide law enforcement mobilization and advertising campaign increased the U.S. average seat belt usage rate to its highest rate ever, 79 percent. The targeted advertising was especially successful at reaching teens and young adults -- usage among people ages 16 to 24 increased by a larger margin than it did for the population as a whole. Kentucky´s seat belt usage increased by 3.5 percentage points to 65.5 percent, a rate that ranks 44th among 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Two states have not published seat belt usage statistics for 2003.

"The only proven way to achieve significant increases in belt use and ultimately save lives, is through high visibility enforcement, including targeted and intense advertising to alert motorists of the enforcement," said Kentucky State Police Commissioner Mark Miller. "Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in a lethal intersection of inexperience, risk taking and low safety belt use. These tragedies are preventable using proven techniques like high visibility enforcement mobilizations."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,530 people ages 16-19 died and some 320,000 more were seriously injured in traffic crashes in 2002. And while drivers under 21 years old account for only 6.6 percent of licensed U.S. drivers, they represented 14 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent of those involved in all police reported crashes in 2001. Teen involvement in crashes is even more serious in Kentucky. In 2002, teen drivers were involved in 21 percent of all crashes, 23 percent of all injury crashes, and 19 percent of all fatal crashes, even though they make up only six percent of licensed drivers in Kentucky.

"While national seat belt use stands at 79 percent, we know that the remaining 21 percent who don´t wear their seat belts are disproportionately teens and young men between the ages of 18-34. Seat belt use for teens and young adults lags at least 10 percentage points below that for the general population," said Captain Brad Bates of the Governor´s Highway Safety Program.

During the Buckle Up Kentucky campaign, officers will intensify enforcement of safety belt laws and child passenger safety laws by conducting saturation patrols and traffic safety checkpoints in high crash locations across the commonwealth. Drivers failing to restrain themselves and their child passengers will be ticketed according to the law.

"Increased enforcement gets people to buckle up - seat belt use in states that conduct high visibility enforcement is 10 to 15 percentage points higher than in states that simply conduct public education," said Commissioner Miller.

High visibility enforcement relies on periods of intense enforcement of seat belt laws coupled with aggressive advertising and media outreach to let people know about the enforcement. For many non-seat belt users, and especially young people, the threat of a ticket has proven to be a greater inducement to buckle up than the threat of injury or death.

"This mobilization is designed to get the enforcement message out to our most vulnerable populations, but it is a reminder to all of us that buckling up can save us a ticket and may save us our lives," said Chuck Hurley, Executive Director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council, a partner in the mobilization. The mobilization is coordinated by NHTSA, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, state highway safety offices, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

All Kentucky State Police Troopers will operate their police vehicles with the headlights illuminated throughout the campaign as an added safety measure and to show support for our military personnel. The public is encouraged to operate their vehicles with the headlights illuminated as well.

The enforcement period begins at midnight on Monday, May 24, 2004 and continues through midnight on Sunday, June 6, 2004.

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