PIQUA — A few seconds to put on a seat belt could mean a lifetime for the victim of a traffic crash.
It was a message that Miami County Safe Communities Coalition and local law enforcement agencies wanted to hit home Tuesday morning, when they launched a Click It or Ticket Campaign event in the Piqua Walmart parking lot.
“The Safe Communities program has the overall goal of reducing traffic-related injuries and fatalities in Miami County by focusing on increasing seat belt usage and awareness,” Vicky Knisley-Henry of Miami County Safe Communities said. This was the second year in a row that Miami County Public Health was awarded the Safe Communities grant from the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, Knisley-Henry said.
The ongoing Click It or Ticket Campaign, as part of that program, encouraged the community to use their seat belts in order to prevent more fatalities as the result of traffic crashes.
The importance of this campaign was highlighted through various statistics the coalition shared on how a seat belt could be the difference between life and death. Knisley-Henry explained that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 54 in the U.S. Over 1,100 Ohioans died as a result of traffic crashes in 2015, with approximately 30,000 injury and fatal crashes reported between June 1 and Aug. 31 of that year.
“Last year, Miami County had 13 fatal crashes,” Knisley-Henry said.
Knisley-Henry also noted how wearing a seat belt could increase one’s chances of surviving a traffic crash.
“Buckling your seat belt only takes a few seconds, and by doing so reduces your risk of being killed in a car accident by more than 50 percent,” Knisley-Henry said.
Around 88 percent of people in Miami County wear seat belts, according to Knisley-Henry. It is an increase from last year, but is still below the national average of 90 percent. Knisley-Henry said that it is the coalition’s goal to get that usage up in Miami County to 92 percent this year.
“We can’t always prevent a crash, but we can make ourselves safer if we buckle up. It only takes a few seconds,” Knisley-Henry said.
Local law enforcement agencies also expressed their support for this initiative with many agencies in attendance, including the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, numerous local police departments, and the Miami County Parks District Ranger.
“We want to have a united front in law enforcement in Miami County,” Sheriff Dave Duchak said. “We want people to have a safe summer.”
Duchak said that traffic crash fatalities are down this year, noting one recent one. He explained that it was not uncommon in the 90s to see around 20 traffic-related fatalities in a year.
“For the last several years — thanks to efforts of Safe Communities, the overtime grant money for extra enforcement efforts in the county — we’ve lowered that … the fatality rate in Miami County average is between nine and 12,” Duchak said.
The campaign also says it in its name — Click It or Ticket — which emphasizes that law enforcement agencies are readily enforcing seat belt and traffic laws, issuing tickets for violators.
“All the efforts of all the law enforcement agencies in Miami County are committed to strict enforcement of seat belts, speeds, failure to yields, looking out for motorcycles, all those things that cause crashes that are easily avoidable and preventable. We’re going to be out in force this summer,” Duchak said.
The coalition also announced the winner of the second annual Miami County School Seat Belt Challenge as Miami East Schools. Knisley-Henry noted that the Miami East FFA holds their own seat belt awareness check at the schools to encourage use of seat belts.
“They’re a good role model,” Knisley-Henry said.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336