Everyone should wear seat belts when they are driving or riding in motor vehicles. It is required by Ohio law and it has been proven to save lives. Nevertheless, many still choose to not buckle up.
Although seat belt usage has been required for front-seat passengers since 1986, it remains a secondary offense, meaning that you couldn't be charged with a violation unless you had already been pulled over for another offense.
Now, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni is out to change that.
Prompted by the fatal accident near Gavers in January in which two adults and one child died, Schiavoni on Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 302 which will make it a primary offense for children under the age of 15 to be riding in a vehicle without being properly restrained. This would allow law enforcement to pull over drivers if they see a seat belt or car seat violation rather than wait for a traffic offense to occur before taking action.
In the Gavers accident, six of the nine passengers riding in the overcrowded Chevy Equinox, including three children besides the girl who died, were not restrained. So far in 2014, eight people have died in seven crashes on Columbiana County and the patrol says no seat belts were in use.
SB 302 is necessary to help protect the lives of innocent children endangered by careless adults, and we encourage the full legislature to support it.
The commander of Lisbon Patrol Post, Lt. Joe Dragovich, is a firm believer that seat belts save lives. "I have to count back over 27 dead bodies before I get to somebody who was buckled up and died in a crash. That's taking us all the way back to February of 2012," Dragovich recently told WFMJ-TV.
While the Gavers crash was the most deadly single incident, a spate of fatal motor vehicle crashes in our county over the last few years has prompted action by several county agencies.
Spearheaded by the patrol, police in our county conducted a two-week seat belt enforcement blitz. Columbiana County Municipal Court judges also got involved.
Starting Feb. 1, those who just send in their fine payments to muni court will pay $50 plus costs for seat belt violations or lane violations. In the past, the court had charged the minimum fine for seat belts, which was $30 plus costs. Those required to appear in court or those contesting the citation could see a different fine, either more or less.
All of these actions, including the bill sponsored by Schiavoni, are steps in the right direction, however, the best way, the easiest way and the cheapest way is simple - buckle up.