County seatbelt compliance soars
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
Two years ago, Escambia County had one of the lowest seatbelt compliance rating in the state. But, since that time efforts such as the "Click-It or Ticket" program have hit home as seatbelt usage and child restraint compliance has increased.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Escambia County, at 77 percent, rates just below the state average in seatbelt usage. That number is up approximately 20 percent from the county's average two years ago.
The same holds true for child restraint compliance. The state saw a 16-point increase in usage over the past year to 89 percent. Escambia County rates just below that at 88 percent.
The numbers in Escambia are part of a statewide trend which has seen seatbelt compliance incresase to 79 percent over the past two years. While the state average has increased several percent, Escambia County's success in seatbelt awareness has skyrocketed to just below the new state average.
Hawsey said there are several factors that has made an impact on seatbelt usage. The most obvious of those is the Click-It campaign.
The sheriff also said that law enforcement officials were aided by the tightening of seatbelt laws and that patrolling officers may pull over a motorist for the reason of seatbelt compliance.
The unprecedented increase in child restrain usage is the result of a number of organizations working together to educate the public. The ADPH, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Children's Health System, Alabama Department of Transportation and the Alabama Department of Public Safety each provided assistance to the public on the proper procedures for restraining a child.
Although the high child restraint usage rate has increased, these agencies note that 80 to 90 percent of child seats are improperly installed. To help correct this problem, these organizations are working to increase awareness of the need for appropriate seats and installation.
Hawsey said the increase in seatbelt and child restraint compliance is not only a product of hard work by law enforcement officials, but also by the understanding of motorists.
Since implementing the Click-It or Ticket program, the ECSO has been presented with several awards for their work.
Due to the program's success, Hawsey said his office intends to continue with the campaign.