Warning for Teenagers to Buckle Up

This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and Texas law enforcement will be on the roads to remind teenagers to buckle up, no matter where they're riding in the car. Surveys by the Texas Department of Transportation show that young people aren't buckling up — a habit that could be deadly. Pat Hernandez has more.

It's been the law for a little over a month. Texas passengers are required to wear a seat belt...not just those in the front seat or younger than 15. Sergeant AJ Washington is with the Traffic Enforcement Division of the Houston Police Department. He says there will definitely be more officers with a mission.

"For seven days we're gonna have overtime units, approximately twenty additional units each day, looking for teen drivers that are not belted in."

PH : "And then once y'all happen to see somebody who is not belted in, what's the procedure there?"

Washington : "We'll issue a citation to that individual. It's not gonna be a warning, it's actually  gonna be a citation, they'll have to appear in court."

Violations could mean fines up to 250 dollars. The driver is responsible for underaged passengers. Passengers 17 and older will get a ticket for not buckling up.  Washington says he's heard all the excuses.

"Just left the house...I'm just going a few miles...but, I really put the responsibility on the driver. If you're driving the vehicle, you're responsible for everyone in that vehicle and, I believe that this vehicle doesn't move until everyone is belted in properly."

Karen Othon is with the Texas Department of Transportation. She says TxDOT wants teens to know that by law, they have to buckle up when they get behind the wheel...or as a passenger in a vehicle.

"We're targeting teens because right now, teens have a higher rate of not buckling up in a vehicle and, so we're trying to get the message out to them and the parents as well, to talk to their children, focus on the importance of buckling up to be safe, because if you're involved in a car crash, you're more likely to survive that car crash being buckled up, than you are unbuckled."

She says in Texas, kids and teens ages 5-16 aren't buckling up over 70-percent of the time in the back seat...versus more than 20-percent of the time in the front seat.

"You really think that you're safe, but you're not. It's like a crash-test dummy, if you can remember what those look like, tumbling through the car during a car crash. Well, that's what the person is unbuckled. They are tumbling around in that vehicle."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Adnministration reports five thousand 16-19 year olds die in car crashes each year. High school sophomore Nicholas Pielech got his drivers license about a month ago. Credit goes to his parents for
making him aware when he gets behind the wheel and  doesn't give police any reason to stop him.

"That's like my worst fear when I'm driving is...to get stopped by an officer for anything."

PH : "What is your biggest fear...getting stopped or getting grounded?"

"I guess getting stopped because getting stopped would mean getting grounded so, I guess the cause of getting stopped would... that would be really bad."

More information on National Teen Driver Safety Week can be found at www.texasclickitorticket.com or at www.seatbeltsrock.com.

PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News. 

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...