Teens Buckle up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BPD warns teen drivers: buckle up or pay ticket

By Billy Davis

A crackdown on seat belt usage begins today after Batesville police noticed teen drivers are failing to buckle up.

The increased enforcement will start with warnings before the ticket books come out, police said Monday.
Any crackdown on teen drivers in Batesville would likely center around South Panola High School, where approximately 1,200 students attend 9th through the 12th grade.  

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BPD Sgt. Denver Donahou, who directs traffic near the high school, said he was alarmed at the number of teen drivers who passed him without wearing a seat belt. He took his concern to department brass, leading to a plan for increased enforcement.

A seat belt violation is a misdemeanor. In city court it would cost the defendant $35, a small fine compared to other misdemeanors.

An unbuckled seat belt may sound like a minor traffic violation but Mississippi ranks number two in the nation for teen fatalities, said Captain Clyde Estridge, training officer for the police department.

Estridge said patrolmen are watching a video about seat belt enforcement during shift changes at the department. The video tells the story of two Gulf Coast teens, a brother and sister, who were killed in 2006 on Highway 49. The automobile accident took the life of driver Kiara Pearse and her brother Brian.
Neither child was wearing a seat belt — though the crash occurred a day after a state trooper presented the Click It or Ticket message at Harrison High School.

Kiara Pearse was attempting to pass another vehicle when her car overturned, ejecting both her and her brother.

In the video, the teenagers’ father asks law enforcement to write a ticket to teens who fail to buckle up.

“You have to take steps to do what parents are not doing,” he says. “I beseech you to write tickets.”

The police department will release its statistics from the three-week seatbelt crackdown October 16, when National Teen Driver Safety Week begins.

“Parents, you better tell your children to wear their seat belts,” said BPD Chief Tony Jones.

“When people are reading this story in the paper, we will start cracking down,” said Estridge.