If you are wondering what these message boards and yard signs are doing all over town, wonder no more.
The portable message boards have a simple message of “Buckle Up Tonight” that flashes twice as each car passes. The yard signs read on one side “Buckle Up Tonight to See Tomorrow.” The message on the other reads “Exercise Some Restraint When You Go Out Tonight,” and it shows a seatbelt graphic.
This is part of a campaign organized by University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research. This initiative is funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Tennessee Highway Safety Office to increase nighttime seat belt use.
Roane County has a slightly higher daytime seat belt use than the state as a whole with 89.8 percent of Roane County residents wearing their seatbelts compared to a statewide average of 88.2 percent. However, when the sun sets, the seatbelt usage rate for Roane County drops to only 71 percent.
A 2005 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in Tennessee, 70 percent of those involved in nighttime fatalities were not wearing their seatbelt. Not wearing a seatbelt has huge negative consequences for those involved in a highway crash.
Programs like Buckle Up Tonight to See Tomorrow are important in promoting highway safety, especially at night. A similar program, Click It or Ticket, showed from 2008 to 2013 that using seatbelts saved almost 63,000 lives nationwide. Buckle Up Tonight hopes to accomplish comparable rates of lives saved in the east Tennessee study area.
These road and yard signs are not the only things being done to get the message across.
Another key activity that is part of this program is nighttime saturation patrols conducted by local law enforcement. These patrols are designed to enforce nighttime seatbelt use and bring awareness to the problem.
Since January 1 of this year, the fine for not wearing a seatbelt increased from $10 to $25 for the first offense, and $50 for the second and beyond. However, assessing fines are not the priority of these patrols.
“It is not the goal of Roane County Sheriff’s Office to see how many citations can be written during this period,” said Captain Tim Hawn of the Roane County Sheriff’s Office. “Our goal is to educate and save lives.”
“I’m trying to find out if people notice what we’re doing,” says Linda Capps, a research assistant at the Center for Transportation Research. “If they’re noticing extra signs, extra policemen, or extra anything they see on the road that encourages them to wear their seatbelt.”
These Driver Service Center intercept surveys are also a way to measure public attitudes for both daytime and nighttime seatbelt use both before and after implementation of the program.
For more information on this initiative, visit the website at buckleuptonight.com.
This press release was submitted by JoAnna Brooker.