CITY OF NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK
Mayor Idoni

Positive Enforcement Increases Seat Belt and Child Restraint Use

"Expecting voluntary usage of seat belts isnít enough. A gentle yet firm combination of enforcement and education is producing great results."
- Mayor Idoni

The City of New Rochelle Police Department has been successful in increasing seat belt and child restraint use through a comprehensive program of enforcement and education. Two of the most effective strategies have been seat belt checkpoints and police officers speaking in the schools.

Major Checkpoint Includes Education and Media

For the past three years, the Police Department has conducted one major seat belt checkpoint per year. Using police officers who are on duty and on overtime, the checkpoint is conducted during "Buckle Up America Week." Money for the overtime is obtained from a selective traffic enforcement grant. The high profile checkpoint is conducted over a four-hour period on a heavily traveled thoroughfare in the city. So as to insure that all safety issues are considered and addressed, planning for the checkpoint usually begins three weeks before the scheduled date. In addition to enforcement, officers working the checkpoint distribute literature about the proper use of seat belts and child restraint devices.

A reporter and photographer from the local newspaper are invited to attend the event. The reporter solicits the reactions from a sampling of motorists regarding their opinions of this type of enforcement activity. Overall, the motoring public has responded favorably to the checkpoints. Many motorists comment to the press and the officers that the minor inconvenience of waiting to get through the checkpoint is well spent if it increases seat belt use. The subsequent news story and photographs bolster the effects of the checkpoint, as the public realizes the Police Departmentís commitment to this type of enforcement.

School Checkpoints

In addition to this major checkpoint, during 1997 officers from the Traffic Unit established smaller checkpoints near the local elementary schools during the hours when students arrive at school. These smaller checkpoints were established to address unrestrained children. They also proved to be highly effective as the word spread rapidly throughout the schools that the police were doing enforcement.

School Presentations

Another important component of the police departmentís program was education. Police officers speak to elementary school students and high school driver education classes on a regular basis about a variety of traffic safety issues, including seat belt and child restraint use. The officers enjoy interacting with the students in a non-enforcement situation, and students welcome the opportunity to ask the officers questions about the seat belt laws.

Results

The combination of seat belt checkpoints and education has helped to increase seat belt use as well as reduce the incidence of accident-related injuries in the City of New Rochelle.

Contact: Lt. William Allison, Commanding Officer, Special Operations, New Rochelle Police Department, 914/654-2221.

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