CATEGORY: Monroe County

AUTHOR: PULLEN

HED: Aberdeen Police Chief: Buckle up!

By Sandi Pullen

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN Mississippi ranks last in the nation when it comes to seat belt wearers, and Aberdeen Police Chief Brent Coleman doesn't like it one bit.

"For the last four weeks, we've been taking surveys on people having seat belts on," Coleman said. "They're not wearing seat belts in Aberdeen, Mississippi, I assure you."

To stop this trend, Coleman, and the state of Mississippi, are taking action.

Aberdeen recently received a $10,000 federal mini-grant through Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's office and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol office to help enforce seat belt laws, Coleman said.

"We intend to do what we're required to do with this grant," he said. "We're not there to give you a hard time. We've done all we can. They can either buckle up or get a ticket. The key to it is saving lives."

The state highway patrol isn't taking any chances, either, and plans to use all its resources this holiday weekend to enforce seat belt laws.

"Even the safest motorists can be involved in crashes caused by others, adverse weather conditions or unexpected obstacles in the way," said Dr. Billy White Jr., Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning executive director. "When crashes occur, safety belts and child restraints can make the difference between life and death or between minor and serious injuries. By using these devices, you increase your chances of survival by 50 percent."

According to a Division of Public Safety Planning press release, of the 927 people killed last year on state roadways, 75.5 percent of drivers, 66 percent of front-seat passengers and 75 percent of back-seat passengers were not belted.

"The bottom line is, they do save lives," said Coleman.

During the Labor Day weekend the highway patrol will have extra radar and roadblock details, and trooper pilots of the Air Operations Division with augment ground units in locating drunken, speeding and reckless drivers, along with stranded motorists, warned the highway patrol in a press release.

"I don't know of any officer who enjoys writing citations for occupant restraint law violations," White said, "but, unfortunately, many motorists will not take the potentially lifesaving step of buckling up unless they know that the laws are vigorously enforced."

Know the law

- Every state, and the District of Columbia, enforces child restraint laws.

- The rear seat of a vehicle is the safest place for children of all ages.

- Children under the age of 12 should never be positioned in the front passenger seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger air bag.

- Children weighing from 40 to 80 pounds should use a belt-positioning booster seat for the best protection. Fasten the child seat harness snugly over the child's shoulders.

- Never put a shoulder belt behind a child's back. It eliminates the protection for the upper part of the body and increases the risk of severe injury in a crash.

- A child who cannot sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle's seat back cushion, with knees bent over the seat's edge without slouching, must use a booster seat.

- Never use pillows, books or towels to boost a child. They can slide around in cases of a rapid breaking or crashes.

- Everyone using a child safety seat should remember to read the instructions for the child safety seat, to read the vehicle owner's manual and to test for a snug, secure fit.

- Child booster seats improve continually. Visit the NHTSA web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov or call toll free at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT for the most current information.

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