Seatbelts monitoring ends today, patrols continue

First Posted: 3/4/2012

Though the Dallas Township Police Department’s monitoring of seatbelts among minors is technically ending today, Chief Robert Jolley said officers will still patrol around the Dallas School District campus.

“We’re doing our seatbelt program until March 4, then we start our aggressive driving campaign, but we’ll still be patrolling for everything,” said Jolley.

The department began patrolling the district campus on Feb. 14 to enforce aspects of Lacey’s Law, which was signed into law late last year.

Lacey’s Law states drivers under the age of 18 can be cited for not wearing a seatbelt. For adults, not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense.

The program, which included a presentation to driving-age students, got its start the day after 18-year-old Thomas Lynch, of Harveys Lake, a senior at Dallas High School, was killed in a crash on Kunkle-Alderson Road.

“We contemplated not doing the program,” said Jolley. “But we decided that we had to do it.”

Jolley said it still has not been determined whether Lynch was wearing a seatbelt at the time, but he said incidents such as this can make young drivers pause and reflect on their own driving habits.

“It definitely has an effect,” he said. “It brings things home.”

The project was made possible through a $1,000 grant for the state police’s Buckle Up PA program.

Dallas School District Superintendent Frank Galicki said the high school’s Emergency Response Team, a club in which students are taught emergency preparedness and safety skills, also aided in getting the program started.

Jolley said officers wrote 17 citations in three weeks.

“We were trying to hit times that persons under the age of 18, those covered under Lacey’s Law, would be driving,” he said. “Maybe this will get young drivers more attuned to buckling up.”

Jolley said the statistics on teen driver accidents are staggering, and he hopes programs like this across the country can help change those numbers.

“There are a disproportional amount of teens being killed in crashes,” he said. “If you set the habit, it continues all the way through adulthood.”

Jolley said the program is not just for teens – more adults than young drivers were cited during the department’s stint at the Dallas campus.

“We could all use a reminder that we need to be driving 100 percent of the time, with no distractions,” he said. “We (the police) can’t control the weather, but maybe we can control whether a person wears a seatbelt and whether a person speeds.”

Galicki said with the recent crashes of Lynch and 17-year-old Dallas High School student Damon Szatkowski, who is recovering after being in a coma since December, simple reminders like wearing a seatbelt can make a big difference.

“We all know the younger drivers feel invincible …,” he said. “As soon as you get in the vehicle, put the key in the ignition, the shoulder hardness should come across … The old adage, ‘It can’t happen to me’ – even if you’re just going down the block, there could be a crash and it could very easily happen.”

Lacey’s Law states drivers under the age of 18 can be cited for not wearing a seatbelt. For adults, not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense.

comments powered by Disqus