The Watertown Police Department is currently participating in a national mobilization of law enforcement aimed at increasing seatbelt usage by motor vehicle drivers and passengers. The mobilization period runs from May 20 through June 2. During the mobilization period, officers around the country are rallying to increase awareness and to increase seatbelt use.
At a local level, Watertown Police Department officers are using a two-pronged approached to increase compliance with South Dakota’s seatbelt laws; education and enforcement. Throughout the month of May, officers have visited all eight Watertown elementary schools to speak with students about the importance of seatbelt use. In all, Watertown officers provided 45 presentations to 1135 students. Additionally, officers are increasing their enforcement efforts through high visibility patrols with specific emphasis on seatbelt usage.
As part of the mobilization efforts, the Watertown Police Department conducted an observational seatbelt survey on May 22 and 23. The survey was the third conducted by Watertown police officers since October 2011. The surveys are funded through a grant from the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety as part of program aimed at increasing seatbelt usage and decreasing aggressive driving near Watertown schools. All three local seatbelt surveys were conducted at the same intersections near schools during the school day. Officers wearing clothing that did not openly identified them to passing motorists as being affiliated with a police department served as observers. The observers recorded whether or not drivers and front seat passengers wore seatbelts as they approached the intersection from all four directions. Because the parameters and locations of all three local surveys were identical, some comparisons can be made between the results of the three surveys.
The emphasis being placed on seatbelt usage through education and enforcement over the last two years appears to be having positive results. In the October of 2011 survey, 47.1% of front seat occupants were wearing their seatbelt. When the exact survey was conducted again earlier this week (May 22 and 23), 62.9% of front seat occupants were wearing their seatbelt.
“The Watertown Police Department is pleased with the increase in seatbelt usage shown in the recent survey. We do, however, recognize there is still room for improvement. We want to ensure that all motorists are as safe as possible, and buckling up every time you get in the car goes a long way toward accomplishing that,” Captain Ryan Remmers said.