Kids not buckled up, poor results of seat belt study worry Brown County officials

Published: Mar. 8, 2017 at 5:19 PM CST
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Half-way through a pilot program to get more people to buckle up, Brown County Sheriff's deputies are concerned over what they're seeing when it comes to compliance, especially involving kids.

We went with deputies to see the concerns.

"There's an SUV. Yes, female."

That's Brown County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Vogel, the directed enforcement officer in Allouez, counting people wearing seat belts.

It's a unique assignment he has once a month for a year.

On the same day, at the same time and at the same intersection, Vogel tracks 100 cars, to see if the drivers and passengers are buckled up.

He records the kind of vehicle driven, if it's a male or female, and their estimated age.

"It's a data-driven society now, and before we start pulling people over, which we can, without any seat belts, we want to give them data. This is why we're doing this," says Vogel.

This, though, is not about writing tickets.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration flagged Brown County and five other communities in the country as having low seat belt use and high crash statistics. NHTSA is funding a year-long seat belt study, locally called Buckle Up Brown, looking for ways to get more people to buckle up. It's focusing on just six communities across the country, based mostly on low seat belt use and high crash statistics.

The sheriff's office is convinced five people killed in crashes in Brown County last year would have lived if they were wearing seat belts.

"You get accidents where people are ejected, and even where people are not ejected, they just bounce around," says Vogel, who's responding to many crashes where drivers and passengers were not wearing seat belts.

Deputies have been counting seat belt use monthly since September at several locations across the county.

What Vogel sees on this day mirrors most every other tally.

Compliance hovers around 80 percent.

"As we'll see today, young and old," says Vogel.

Wednesday, 17 of 100 people, mostly men ages 25 to 59, were not buckled.

That identifies the problem.

The solution comes in the form of education.

Vogel says it's about changing people's attitudes and starting young, where he hopes this program will have a big impact.

"Just listening to the radio, you get reckless driver complaints where the complaint is the kid's not buckled up, and you get those, I would say, every other day," says Vogel. "It's for sure 2-3 times a week we're getting people that their kid's in the front seat, just not buckled up or anything like that."