Statewide seatbelt initiative launched during Thanksgiving

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Beginning Monday, local authorities, along with police officers all across the state, will be out in force as part of Iowa’s Special Traffic Enforcement Program (sTEP).
From Nov. 23 to 29, law enforcement officials from more than 325 agencies will increase patrolling on Iowa’s city streets, rural roadways and interstates urging motorists to buckle up and obey all traffic laws in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
As of Oct. 20, the Iowa Department of Transportation reported 303 fatalities on Iowa roadways. This number will likely continue to climb, as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend can be deadly. Eight persons perished on Iowa highways over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, and 16 suffered the same fate in 2007. Iowa’s seatbelt usage rate remains at 93 percent, placing the state in the top 10 in the country. The 7 percent of Iowans not buckled up, however, translates into more than 180,000 drivers and 70,000 front seat passengers traveling everyday on our roadways at a much greater risk of serious injury or death.
“Our biggest highway traffic safety challenge remains convincing all motorists to make that three-second investment to buckle up every trip, every time,” said Randy Hunefeld, sTEP Coordinator for the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau. “You don’t always get a second chance in a traffic crash, so why risk it? Give yourself that chance by buckling up.”
During the last sTEP wave that spanned Aug. 21 through Sept. 3, 237 reporting law enforcement agencies encountered 990 impaired drivers, 3,469 seat belt violators, 14,718 speeders and a total of 37,889 traffic violations. Officers made 111 felony and 292 narcotics arrests with 383 arrest warrants served. During the same period, 1,964 motorists were assisted and 1,069 crashes were investigated. These contributing enforcement efforts have no doubt had an effect on saving lives and preventing serious injury crashes. The next sTEP wave is scheduled for March 17-21, 2010, in conjunction with the week encompassing the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Local agencies particating in the traffic program include the Newton and Prairie City police departments and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.
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