Md. Law Enforcement Launches Annual Chiefs' Challenge Campaign

Law Enforcement Officials Seek Community Participation In Lifesaving Program

LA PLATA, Md. - From April 3 through June 3, 2007, local law enforcement will join more than one hundred law enforcement agencies across Maryland to participate in an intensive, highly publicized, and competitive annual effort to educate the public about the lifesaving and injury-reducing benefits of safety belt use. Maryland has a rich history of being a leader in safety belt and child safety seat compliance. This is a direct result of the commitment and dedication that Maryland's law enforcement community has made to establishing successful community-based educational programs for and partnerships with the citizens they serve. It is also a well-known fact that in Maryland communities in which friendly educational methods alone do not result in voluntary compliance, officers, deputies, and troopers do not hesitate to use the final "educational" tool - a safety belt citation in an effort to save lives.

Annually, Maryland Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, Campus Safety Directors, and Maryland State Police Barrack Commanders challenge their officers, deputies, and troopers to design community-outreach programs and events, to recruit community partners, and to conduct enhanced educational and enforcement initiatives in an effort to increase safety belt and child safety seat use. As a result of their efforts last year, during the statewide observational surveys that were taken in the spring of 2006, Maryland's statewide seat belt use rate was 91 percent. But even with the majority of Maryland's public buckling up, this means that more than 450,000 Marylanders continue to put themselves in danger by riding unbuckled.

"The highest priority for law enforcement officials is to protect and preserve the lives of the citizens we serve," said Cpl. Joseph K. Swann of the Maryland State Police in La Plata. Accordingly, this annual campaign provides a statewide timeframe in which all Maryland law enforcement agencies can work together to reduce the loss of lives and the severity of injuries resulting from unbuckled occupants in motor vehicle crashes. "As a team, we want our message to be clear to Marylanders of all ages: if they are not buckled up, at least one member of our law enforcement team will stop them and issue a ticket-because all of us care about the citizens we serve," Cpl. Swann continued.

Throughout Southern Maryland and across the state, local law enforcement officials will be conducting community outreach educational programs at child day care and senior centers, schools, businesses, and with the help of religious leaders. The Buckle Up Religiously campaign component will be conducted at a number of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. Local community partners will be assisting law enforcement officials in conducting observational safety belt use surveys. The health department and other partners in the EMS and health care community also will assist by promoting the lifesaving benefits of buckling up on every ride in every vehicle, and ensuring that all children are properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt in accordance with their age and weight. Finally, there will be enhanced enforcement efforts for those who do not heed the call for voluntary compliance.

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