The Garden City Telegram
2/13/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Ticket trap

Police should be creative in encouraging safe travel.

Garden City police found a creative way to catch local motorists not interested in buckling up.

Local officers recently conducted a nighttime seat-belt enforcement program near the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Third Street.

The strategy to stop and ticket offenders featured a trap of sorts in a police officer posing as a different kind of city worker. Standing near a city truck parked in a westbound lane of Kansas Avenue, the officer took advantage of his vantage point to observe whether motorists passing by were wearing their seat belts or properly using child-safety restraints.

The officer radioed ahead to police officers stationed a couple of blocks away, who then pulled over the drivers in question.

Some caught in the seat-belt trap no doubt thought they were unfairly singled out as part of the effort to enforce the state's law on seat-belt usage.

But the strategy was not only fair and legal, it also was an effective way to get the attention of the many motorists who'd just as soon thumb their noses at a law in place to keep them safe.

Law enforcement authorities know that fatalities and serious injuries drop as more people buckle up.

Seat-belt compliance in Kansas started to improve in 2010 after implementation of a new law that allowed law enforcement officers to stop motorists they observed not buckled up.

Still, authorities know there's a long way to go.

The recent seat-belt check in Garden City resulted in 74 traffic stops, with 68 seat-belt and three child-restraint citations, among other charges.

Moving forward, it's safe to say local residents will talk about the seat-belt check for some time. Knowing police are willing to be more creative in catching offenders will lead to heightened awareness, and should drive up compliance.

Of course, one way to avoid being stopped and ticketed would be following the law.

And as more people make the wise decision to wear their seat belts, they'll be safer on the roads.

For that reason alone, the new and unusual tactic employed by local police was more than reasonable.