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Officers target safety

Enforcing the law is just one part of a police officer’s duties.

Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Enforcing the law is just one part of a police officer’s duties.

Saturday, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department deputies will team up in an effort to remind local residents to obey the law –  and, hopefully, save a few lives in the process, deputy Jerry Elliott said.

Operation ABC (America Buckles up Children), a national program to promote seat belt and child safety seat laws, will visit the county, Elliott said.

"This is a joint effort between the sheriff’s department and the Highway Patrol," Elliott explained. "The campaign began nationally Nov. 22 and will continue through Thanksgiving weekend."

Saturday, deputies and troopers will visit Rome Foodfair from 10 a.m. until noon and then travel to Wal-Mart in Burlington from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. in an effort to make the public aware of seat belt safety and child safety restraint usage.

And Lawrence County is not immune from the results of lack of safety restraint usage, OHP officials said.

"There have been eight fatalities in Lawrence County since Jan. 1 of this year," OHP Trooper Chris Smith. "One of the eight was wearing a seat belt, and four of the eight were under the age of 25."

In addition, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14, Elliott said.

"In 1988, motor vehicle crashes took the lives of more than 2,000 children ages 0 to 15 and injured nearly 320,000 more," he said. "

Educating adults about the importance of seat belt safety not only protects them, but also increases the likelihood of protecting their children, too, Elliott added.

"Studies show that a restrained driver is three times more likely to restrain a child," he said. "Other studies show that when a driver is buckled, children are buckled 87 percent of the time. But when a driver is unbuckled, children are restrained only 24 percent of the time."

And, keeping small children –  those under 40 pounds or under the age of 4 especially – in the backseat can also prevent serious injury or death, he added. Air bags can be more harmful than helpful to small children.

"There are a third fewer fatalities to children who ride in the back seat, according to U.S. Department of Transportation studies," Elliott said. And, child safety seats, when properly installed, reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the State of Ohio, 81 children under the age of 16 have died in auto accidents this year, Elliott said.

"Statistics show that in 55 of the total 81 deaths, the children were unrestrained," he said.

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, motorists who don’t wear their seat belts are statistically more likely to be killed or hurt in a traffic crash, officials said.

They are also more likely to get a citation, Elliott said.

"Along with thousands of agencies across the country, our officers and Highway Patrol officers will be stepping up enforcement of seat belt and child passenger safety laws," he said. "We will be looking for and ticketing any deadbeat drivers, those adults who, despite all the attention to child passenger safety, are still putting children at deadly risk by not buckling them up. We have zero tolerance for deadbeat drivers."