The University Police will have patrols dedicated to the Buckle Up for Safety program, which started on April 23 and will conclude on May 6.
Oswego State University Police Lt. Kevin Velzy coordinates nationwide “Click or Ticket” campaign on campus to enforce seatbelt safety awareness.
“We want to first educate students on the safeties, before we enforced the policy,” Velzy said. “We’ve had tons of flyers around campus about the initiative.”
The nationwide “Click it or Ticket” campaign generally starts in May. However, UP was allowed to begin educating the student population in April, prior to summer break.
Seatbelt safety has been an issue in the U.S. for quite some time, and was put into law in 1985.
In 2008, UP started participating in a law enforcement contest involving several other university police departments to increase the enforcement of three laws: speeding, driving while intoxicated (DWIs) and occupant restraint (seat belt safety).
“The challenge is a friendly competition highlighting a police departments’ enforcement and educational efforts in the areas of DWI, speeding, and occupant restraint,” Velzy said.
This year University Police at Oswego placed second in the college and university category for New York State for activities during the 2011 calendar year.
At the start of UP’s involvement in the public safety contest, Oswego State accumulated a total of 45 seatbelt violations. In 2011, the number increased to 140 violations.
“Nighttime enforcement is what is fairly new,” Velzy said. “People are 12 percent less likely to buckle up at nighttime.”
Police enforcement for the “Click it or Ticket” campaign is funded through a grant Velzy applied for. The grant funds the overtime pay of patrolling officers at night.
Senior Cinema and Screen Studies major Nathan O’Brien was recently ticketed for neglecting to wear a seat belt while driving on campus. Rushing from the Village complex to Lanigan Hall, O’Brien forgot to buckle up.
Velzy stressed that many drivers may feel as though it is okay to refrain from buckling up when driving short distances, but most traffic collisions occur within three miles of the driver’s home.
Low speed accidents are also underestimated. But according to the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART), a 200-pound individual driving at approximately 20 mph would have to endure 4,000 pounds of impact if faced with a collision. Velzy said that a 10-pound baby would endure 200 pounds of impact in a car traveling 20 mph.
In New York state, 90 percent of drivers buckle up, slightly higher than the national average of 85 percent. Twenty-one percent of New York highway deaths occurred because of unrestrained occupants.
Velzy said that an additional issue is the incorrect use of the restraint.
“I see that many people wear their shoulder belt behind their back,” Velzy said. “This can lead to even greater injuries in case of an accident.”
When the shoulder strap of a seat belt is placed behind the occupant’s back, their upper body is no longer restrained, which can lead to head and chest injuries. Wearing the waist belt over the stomach can also lead to serious injuries.
Velzy said that vehicle occupants should not rely on an airbag to protect them in place of a seat belt, because being rapidly thrown into an airbag can lead to harmful results, including death.
Although backseat passengers age 16 and above are exempt from wearing seat belts, Velzy said that unrestrained passengers can affect the safety of restrained passengers. In some accidents, unrestrained back seat passengers have induced injuries upon restrained occupants.
Velzy said that seat belt safety is a primary law and that there is zero tolerance for violations. If vehicle occupants are caught in violation of this law, they can be penalized with a minimum fine of $50, in some cases costing up to $100.