The latest numbers released by the Missouri Department of Transportation show seatbelts aren't clicking with Missouri teens.
Seven out of 10 Missourians killed in a 2011 traffic crash were unbuckled and only 66 percent of teens reported wearing their seatbelt, according to a survey taken last year by the Highway Safety Division of MoDOT and the Missouri Safety Center. One in four Missouri traffic crashes involves a young driver. And 78 percent of those teens in crashes are unbuckled.
But Palmyra superintendent Eric Churchwell says most teenagers at PHS don't think twice about the life-saving device.
"I think kids now, they're used to putting it on much more so than I was when it wasn't a law when I was learning to drive. You didn't have to wear them and we didn't. But I think now just a habit. So I kinda see kids wearing them more than not," said Churchwell.
Churchwell merits education and programs both through the school and partnership programs with MoDOT like Click it or Ticket and Save Mo Lives.
He says programs like this are working.
PHS senior Kevin Bross says he grew up in a home where safety was a priority. He says his parents always buckled up and he follows suit. Bross says most of his peers at PHS are buckling up on a regular basis.
"It's simple. It's easy. I mean it can save your life," said Bross. "A couple extra seconds to put your seat belt on versus 30 or 40 years of your life. I mean it's not really a hard equation to figure out."
Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn says his deputies are issuing more tickets for seatbelts than they used to and this has him concerned. Even though students and faculty at Palmyra High School tell me most teens are wearing their belts, Shinn says the use has declined in recent years in the county.
Shinn says the most important thing you can do as a parent is lead by example.
"They see what we do. And with my child, he knows that I don't back out of that driveway every day without us buckling up and it comes second instinct to him. It's natural for him. He's never known anything different," said Shinn.
Shinn says not wearing your seatbelt is a secondary violation, meaning you can't be pulled over for it. But if you're pulled over for a moving violation like speeding and you aren't wearing your seatbelt, you will get a ticket.
With one of the nations lowest fines in the nation sat just $10, Missouri lawmakers have moved to change that in a bill that would raise the fine from $10 to $50.
Shinn says it's more about getting people to buckle up than about revenue.
The bill is sitting in the Missouri Senate, but it's gotten farther this year than each of the past three year it's been introduced.
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