Major Ken Howes
FOR RELEASE MAY 20, 1997:
All 50 States Participate in Operation ABC:
Mobilizing America to Buckle Up Children
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Highway Patrol is joining with law enforcement agencies and health and safety groups across the country to send a message to the public that "unbuckled children are unacceptable." In conjunction with Buckle Up America Week, the Air Bag Safety Campaign, the FHP, and a host of Florida sheriff's and police departments have planned activities under the banner of "Operation ABC: Mobilizing America to Buckle Up Children", a national campaign designed to inform the public about how to maximize the lifesaving capabilities of air bags while minimizing the risks and to increase the proper use of safety belts and child safety seats.
Florida state troopers, and many local sheriff's deputies and police officers will be conducting strict, high-visibility enforcement of Florida's child restraint law during Operation ABC, scheduled for May 21-22, 1997. Florida law requires children under 6 years old to be properly restrained while riding in a motor vehicle. If the child is under 4 years old, a federally approved child safety seat must be used. Children 4 and 5 years old must be restrained in a safety belt or child safety seat. The fine for violating Florida's child restraint law is $60, plus court costs. In addition, 3 points are assessed against a violator's driving record.
"Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children, and unbuckled or improperly restrained children are at twice the risk from death and injury in the event of a crash. The added risk that air bags may pose to children adds urgency to this message," said Colonel Ron Grimming, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. "This means we must step up enforcement of our child passenger safety laws to make certain children are buckled up."
As part of this national traffic safety campaign, Pizza Hut has teamed up with the FHP to reward Florida motorists who demonstrate safe highway driving. During this week, motorists who are buckled up when stopped by troopers will receive a "Buy One, Get One Free" Pizza Hut coupon.
In addition, Pizza Hut representatives will be on-site at DUI checkpoint operations throughout Florida on Friday, May 23, 1997, as part of the second phase of the "Booze It and Lose It" campaign. Motorists exhibiting safe driving behavior when stopped at each DUI checkpoint operation will be rewarded with a coupon for a free Pizza Hut pizza by state troopers, sheriff's deputies, and city police officers.
"Pizza Hut is a natural partner for this campaign," said Al Salas, Vice President, Operations, Pizza Hut. "Safe driving affects our extended family - our employees and our customers, which in turn, affects our overall business. We're excited about bringing this national campaign to Florida and directly rewarding those safe-driving motorists with Pizza Hut's "Totally New Pizza" certificates." Pizza Hut employs more than 240,000 people worldwide, and serves nearly 1.7 million pizzas everyday, to approximately 4 million customers.
Booze It and Lose It is being scheduled for Friday, May 23, 1997, to coincide with the start of the 1997 Memorial Day holiday period. A total of 16 DUI checkpoint operations and 33 "wolfpack" patrols are planned throughout the state in an effort to reduce alcohol-related crashes. During the first phase of the campaign, held on March 7, 1997, a total of 155 drunk drivers were apprehended at various checkpoint sites.
During last year's Memorial Day holiday, 33% of the traffic deaths which occurred were alcohol-related. In addition, 62% of the drivers and passengers killed in vehicles normally equipped with safety belts were not buckled up. A total of 30 people were killed in 24 separate crashes last year. The 96-hour Memorial Day holiday period begins at 0001 hours on Friday, May 23rd, and will continue through midnight, Monday, May 26th.
The FHP and participating police and sheriff's departments have also begun stepped-up enforcement of safety belt laws during Operation Beltway II, a campaign funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and designed to increase Florida's safety belt usage rates. The one-week education and strict enforcement campaign began on May 16th and will end on May 22nd. Similar campaigns are planned during future holiday periods through the end of 1998. Last year, during Operation Beltway, safety belt usage rates increased by almost 8 percent, meaning that over 1,100,000 more Floridians are buckling up as a result of the efforts of Florida law enforcement officers during the operations.