An aggressive education and enforcement effort to encourage motorists to wear their seatbelts and properly buckle up their children is underway in Charles County. Between April 6 and June 6, the Charles County Sheriff's Office is participating in the 18th annual Chiefs' Challenge, a statewide seatbelt and child safety seat campaign during which officers have zero tolerance for violations.
The Chiefs' Challenge, which is sponsored by the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, seeks to educate the public about the lifesaving and injury-preventing benefits of seatbelt and child safety seat use. As part of the campaign, the Sheriff's Office will conduct random checkpoints at various locations throughout Charles County. Anyone found not wearing a seatbelt or with an improperly restrained child passenger will be issued a citation. Additionally, patrol officers will be on the lookout for violators and will issue citations to those they find. Last year, the Sheriff's Office issued 324 citations for seatbelt and child safety seat violations during Chiefs' Challenge.
"We experienced a record number of deaths on the roads of our community last year and so far this year, we are seeing traffic fatalities at the same rate. The more people who wear seatbelts, the more lives will be saved," said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "There are still motorists who do not buckle up and research has proven most adults who don't buckle up fail to properly buckle up their children as well. Our goal is to change these dangerous behaviors, not just during this campaign but throughout the year."
More than 100 law enforcement agencies in Maryland participate in Chiefs' Challenge. As a result of their efforts last year, during state-wide observational surveys taken in the spring of 2005, Maryland's seatbelt usage rate was 91 percent.
"Our goal this year is to reach the 9 percent of the population that is not bucked up according to the law," said Sheriff Davis. "If the proven safety facts about seatbelts won't persuade them, hopefully a citation, or the possibility of a citation, will."
The Charles County Sheriff's Office was recognized in 2005 for its efforts during the 17th annual Chiefs' Challenge. It was the eighth consecutive year the Sheriff's Office has received the prestigious award.
KEEPING YOUR CHILD PASSENGERS SAFE
Know Child Safety Seat Guidelines
Whether it's a quick dash to the market or a cross-country venture, when children are passengers, we can never be too safe. It's not just enough to buckle up children; drivers must ensure their child passengers are in a safety seat appropriate for the child's age, height and weight. The Charles County Sheriff's Office would like to share the following child safety seat guidelines:
o Children less than one year old and less than 20 lbs. should travel in rear-facing seats. Some companies make convertible seats that face the rear during this stage and can face the front when the children are ready to graduate to the second stage.
o Children over age one who are between 40 and 60 lbs. should use a forward-facing safety seat according to the seat manufacture's instructions.
o Children up to age 6, regardless of their weight, and children who weigh 40 lbs. or less, regardless of their age, must be secured in a federal-approved child safety seat according to the safety seat and vehicle manufacturer's instructions.
Making sure your child's safety seat is installed correctly is also vital for their safety. Consult the instructions and your car manual for tips. Additionally, the Charles County Sheriff's Office has a number of officers and cadets who are certified by Safe Kids for child safety seat installation. To make an appointment to have your seat installed, call Cpl. R. Padgett at 301-932-3052.