Of the 319 people who died in car accidents last year in the state of Nevada, 148 were not wearing their seat belt. Law enforcement officers estimate that half of those people would be with us today if they had only chose to buckle up.
"Wearing a seat belt is still the single most effective thing we can do to save lives and reduce injuries on America's roadways," said Adam Garcia, director of University Police Services. "I've seen numerous minor accidents where people died because they were not wearing seat belts -- a tremendous loss of life needlessly."
State law enforcement agencies are taking on this issue by buckling down on those who are not buckled up. Funded by a federal grant from the National Highway Transportation Commission, Nevada Department of Public Safety (NDPS) and law enforcement agencies throughout the state will begin the state's first teen "Click It or Ticket" enforcement wave, Oct. 20 through Nov. 4. Additional waves will take place in January, May and September 2008.
"Anything we can do to encourage seat belt use will help save lives," Garcia said. "Education and encouragement is not always enough. Sometimes law enforcement must make judgmental decisions on behalf of others, especially those who are too young to understand the potential consequences."
During this campaign, law enforcement officers will be on the look-out for young people, ages16-20, that are not buckled up. Statistics show that Nevada's teen seat belt usage rate is about 15 percent below the state average.
For Kelly Thomas Boyers, seat belt safety is an issue that has taken on great importance. Her son Adam Thomas, a University political science major, died in a car accident in March. Thomas was not belted in when he was ejected from his SUV on Interstate 80.
"Investigators told me that he would have lived if he was wearing his safety belt," Thomas Boyers said. "I know that if there would have been a law that said he could be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt, he would have been wearing his."
In an effort to spare other mothers from the pain she still experiences, Thomas Boyers has committed her time to lobbying such a law. In May, Thomas Boyers testified before the Nevada Assembly Transportation Committee in support of Senate Bill 42, a bill that would permit officers to pull over drivers for not wearing a seat belt. The bill was dismissed, but this did not discourage Thomas Boyers from moving forward with her efforts.
Thomas Boyers works with State Sen. Dennis Nolan of Las Vegas to raise awareness of seat belt safety. They are moving forward to form a safety belt coalition, she said.
Along with her lobbying efforts, Thomas Boyers has organized various charity events to raise awareness of seat belt safety. She is finalizing plans for the First Annual "Step Out for Safety" walk to take place in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. She is planning a similar event to take place in Reno in March in recognition of the first anniversary of Thomas' death.
Thomas Boyers also organized the Adam Thomas Memorial Fund to raise money for a scholarship for University Legislative Interns.
"Adam was given a great opportunity," Thomas Boyers said. "We would like to give other students that opportunity in his memory."
Thomas Boyers represents the parents of more than 30 Nevada teens and young adults who die in car accidents each year. NDPS hopes that the Click It or Ticket campaign will help young people recognize the importance of wearing a seat belt.