For the first time, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) for its annual Seatbelts Are For Everyone (S.A.F.E.) campaign.
This statewide initiative is designed to increase seat belt and child passenger safety restraint usage through the implementation of occupant-protection programs, public events, and checkpoints throughout communities across Tennessee. In its fourth year, the campaign began this month and concludes August 1.
According to the THSO, more than 50 percent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes in Tennessee were not wearing seat belts. In 2012, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 people from car crash fatalities. From 2008 to 2012, seat belts saved nearly 63,000 lives.
“It is important that our university participates in this campaign, because it will bring awareness not only to UTHSC faculty, staff, and students, but also to the individuals traveling on the roadways in the Memphis Medical District,” said Joanne Morrow, officer of the UTHSC Police Department and site campaign coordinator. “Participating in this campaign will not only increase awareness of UTHSC’s increased presence in the area, but it will also make our department eligible for grants offered by the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, which will assist us in funding more traffic safety awareness campaigns in the future.”
UTHSC has planned awareness events, a Click It or Ticket campaign, and the enforcement of seat belt citations within the Memphis Medical District. There will also be an on-campus event April 10 to promote seat belt awareness and showcase the seat belt convincer, a simulation apparatus that emphasizes the importance of wearing a seat belt in order to avoid injuries and collisions.
Last year’s statewide campaign yielded the following results:
- 1,717 child restraint violations
- 21,562 seat belt citations
- 723 other seat belt enforcement activities
“In 2015, Tennessee’s average seatbelt usage rate was 86.23 percent,” said Vic Donoho, director of the THSO. “Last year, we soared to 88.95 percent. Through increased education, enforcement, and community involvement, we’re striving for 90 percent or higher.”
This year, participating agencies will pay special attention to nighttime seat belt enforcement. Tennessee has seen a disproportionate percentage of unrestrained passenger or driver fatalities between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.
“There are too many people severely injured and killed due to not making the decision to wear a seat belt while in commute,” said Officer Morrow. “Our goal as a department is to reinforce and encourage individuals to take corrective action. The campaign isn’t about the citations, it’s about saving lives.”
“As UTHSC continues to grow, we want our students to know that campus police are concerned about their continuous success in and outside of the classroom. Therefore, saving lives through seat belt awareness and enforcement is essential to our overall mission and goal, not only as an institution, but as a policing agency within the Memphis Medical District,” she said.