Police initiate seat belt, child restraint program

Mayor John Marks and the Tallahassee Police Department launched the “Buckle Up Tallahassee” campaign Nov. 15. The program is geared toward educating the Tallahassee community about the importance of buckling up and properly installing child safety seats.

The campaign is in conjunction with the “Buckle Up America” initiative, which is sponsored by the National Conference of Black Mayors. Buckle Up Tallahassee is not just about increasing the number of law enforcement officers on the roadways.

“We want to increase awareness to buckle up families, especially young children in child safety seats,” said Alan Williams, an aide to the mayor.

Buckle Up Tallahassee will focus on the city, but other law enforcement will also be included in assisting TPD in accomplishing its goal.

“In Leon County, we want to lower the fatalities and casualties as a result of not buckling up,” Williams said.The campaign was required to hold an observational study to record seat belt usage.

According to the press release issued by the Mayor’s Office, the study was conducted under the supervision of Charles Wright, professor in the College of Engineering Science, Technology and Agriculture at Florida A&M University.

Students from CESTA administered the study Nov. 1. The study, which covered three busy Tallahassee intersections, averaged 63 percent for seat belt and child safety seat usage. This average is dramatically below the national average of 80 percent.

“We want to encourage people to buckle up more than they normally do,” TPD Officer David McCranie said.

According to the press release, Wright found that the intersection of Wahnish Way and FAMU Way had a seat belt usage of only 50 percent.

This indicated to him that many young people underestimate how easy and effective the use of a seat belt can be.McCranie said he believes that increasing seat belt usage is “a matter of education and doing the right thing.”

The campaign was launched right before the holiday season in a strategic move to inform drivers before the heaviest traffic of the year.

With so many more cars on the roadways than normal, the holiday season averages the highest percentage of car crashes than any other time of the year.

“Our goal with this program is to save lives and have 100 percent buckle up compliance,” McCranie said.There are many programs associated with Buckle Up Tallahassee. One program includes child safety seat instillation seminars every Wednesday at the TPD headquarters. TPD will also target areas where seat belt compliance is lower, typically the university areas.

“You can educate the public, give them the information, but then there has to be some enforcement,” McCranie said.

The second survey of seat belt and child safety seat usage will take place in February 2007. This survey will report if the program had any effect. The data from that survey will be issued in March 2007.

“Our goal is not to write a lot of tickets. We just want people to buckle up,” McCranie said.