CHP "Buckle Up" program making a difference

goal is education, safety

October 21, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

More young Imperial Valley children and babies are riding safer in motor vehicles these days thanks to the efforts of the California Highway Patrol.

Under a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, the CHP launched its "Imperial Valley Buckle Up" campaign back in January 2000.

Using grants totaling more than $500,000, the Buckle Up campaign focused on education programs designed to publicize the correct use of seat belts and child-safety restraints.

In a child-safety seat give-away program, 400 safety seats were given to low-income expectant mothers who connected with the program through clinics and hospitals in Imperial County.


A CHP survey conducted in 1998-99 showed the compliance rate in Imperial County was a full 15 percent below the state average of 90 percent.

CHP Officer Jose Salazar, officer in charge of the Buckle Up program, said Thursday there also were a lot of people in the community wearing their seat belts incorrectly.

"What we commonly saw in our campaign was a person wearing the shoulder strap part of the seat belt under their arm. Wearing your seat belt in this manner is extremely dangerous if you are involved in a collision or have to bring your vehicle to a sudden stop."

Another area of concern was cars equipped with automatic seat belts for the driver and the front-seat passenger.

Salazar said many drivers of cars with such seat belts tended to think they did not have to fasten the lap section of the belt to be in compliance with seat belt laws.

"Apart from being dangerous, this is also a violation and you can be cited if an officer sees you wearing your seat belt in this manner" Salazar added.

The program ended Oct. 1. and surveys indicate that seat belt use in Imperial County is now at the state level of 90 percent and use of safety seats for children has risen to 86 percent.

"The bottom line is that you have upward of a 71 percent chance of surviving a collision if you are wearing a seat belt," Salazar said. "But we are constantly stressing to drivers that they need to wear their seat belts correctly."

For information concerning proper use of child-safety seats, upcoming safety seat checkups or information on low-cost seats, call the El Centro area CHP office at 482-2500, the Winterhaven area CHP office at 572- 2510 or visit

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