FOR RELEASE NOVEMBER 26, 1996:
TALLAHASSEE - Colonel Ron Grimming, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol, today announced traffic enforcement plans for the 120-hour 1996 Thanksgiving Holiday, scheduled to run from 0001 hours on Wednesday, November 27, 1996, through midnight, Sunday, December 1, 1996.
"During this holiday period, troopers will be focusing their attention on the two main reasons why motorists are dying in Florida...the use of alcohol and the non-use of safety belts while driving," said Colonel Grimming. During the 1995 Thanksgiving Holiday, 42 persons died in traffic crashes throughout Florida. Forty-four percent (44%) of the fatal crashes were alcohol-related and sixty-five percent (65%) of those killed in vehicles normally equipped with safety belts were not using them.
Roadside sobriety checkpoint operations are scheduled to be held throughout Florida during the heavily traveled holiday period. In addition, teams of troopers will be working during nighttime hours in specific areas where the frequency of alcohol-related traffic crashes has been identified.
As many as 150 additional troopers have volunteered to work extra hours during the holiday weekend in an attempt to increase visibility on Florida's interstates, turnpike, and other heavily traveled roadways. In addition, approximately 165 FHP Auxiliary troopers will be involved in limited scope patrol activities or riding with regular troopers on routine patrol operations during the holiday.
The last "wave" of Operation Beltway, a statewide enforcement campaign designed to increase Florida's overall safety belt compliance rate to 75 percent by the end of 1996, is also being conducted during the holiday weekend. FHP, along with a coalition of over 200 Florida police and sheriff's departments, began the unprecedented series of four, two-week traffic safety campaigns targeting motorists who ignore Florida's safety belt and child restraint laws on March 1, 1996. Over 1,600 troopers, and close to 2,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies, have been taking a "zero tolerance" approach against unbuckled motorists during the three previous two-week enforcement periods which were conducted during major travel or holiday periods.
According to informal surveys conducted throughout Florida, the average safety belt compliance rate has increased from 58.3% to 64.6 %.
During the three previous "waves" of Operation Beltway activities, FHP troopers and officers from the various participating municipal and county law enforcement agencies have issued almost 158,000 traffic citations, with over 37,000 being issued for safety belt or child restraint violations. In addition, over 3,600 drunk drivers were arrested, 2,100 drug arrests were made, and 746 fugitives were apprehended during the six-week period. The underlying theme of the campaign has been: "Buckle up or Pay Up".
FHP will also be continuing to educate motorists about the benefits and potential problems associated with air bags. Although air bags save lives - nearly 500 in 1995 alone - they are not soft, billowy pillows. Rather, air bags come out of the dashboard at up to 200 miles per hour - faster than the blink of an eye. According to the National Highway Traffic safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 children have been killed to date by the force of a deploying air bag. In many cases, the children were riding in the front seat either in a rear-facing child safety seat or "out of position" - either unbuckled or not wearing the shoulder portion of the safety belt.
As part of an effort sponsored by the Air Bag Safety Campaign to educate motorists about problems associated with children and air bags, FHP Auxiliary personnel in Orange County will be part of a nationwide team of traffic safety advocates who will be stationed in busy rest areas during the Thanksgiving weekend to spread important information to holiday travelers that air bags and children don't mix. FHP Auxiliary Troopers will be disseminating air bag safety materials at both east and westbound rest areas on Interstate 4 near Disney World in Orange County for 10 hours on Wednesday, November 27th, and again for 10 hours on Sunday, December 1st (the two busiest travel days).
The Air Bag Safety Campaign is a public/private partnership of automotive manufacturers, insurance companies, child safety seat manufacturers, occupant restraint manufacturers, government agencies, health professionals and child health and safety organizations. The goal of the Campaign is to increase the proper use of safety belts and child safety seats and to inform the public about how to maximize the lifesaving capabilities of air bags while minimizing the risks.
Specifically, travelers should observe the following safety measures this holiday and every day:
Children 12 and under should ride buckled up in the back seat.
Infants in rear-facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag.
Small children should ride in the back seat in child safety seats approved for their age and size.
Older children also should ride buckled up in the back seat.
Drivers and front seat passengers in air bag equipped vehicles should move their seats back as far as practical, particularly for people of shorter stature.
Motorists with cellular phones are being asked to assist the FHP by dialing *FHP to report drunk drivers, traffic crashes/tie-ups, or any suspicious incident occurring on Florida roadways.