by Mayor Tammy

It’s no secret that the youth of our community hold a special place in my heart. We are always looking for more ways to engage our younger generation, especially when it comes to the process of government. That’s why I was beaming with pride as students from our Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) stood before the State Senate Transportation Committee this month to present a bill on seatbelt requirements for youth that they have spent the past few years putting together.

Automobile accidents are commonly cited as the number one killer of teens in Idaho which is why this topic has become a focus of MYAC. They have lost peers like Meridian teenagers Bobby Rogers and Tiffany Walters, who were killed in a car crash on Table Rock in Boise and were not wearing seatbelts. Through extensive research, members of MYAC have found that seatbelts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by half. Wearing your seat belt is the law; however, enforcement of this law is secondary. This means you can’t be pulled over for only the reason of not wearing a seatbelt. Our MYAC leaders and other teens across the state believe their peers need greater accountability when it comes to wearing seatbelts, through a primary enforcement law.

They also firmly believe that when you first start driving this is when your habits are formed; if we can encourage new drivers to use their seat belts now, then they are likely to continue to do so later. In addition, on average, states that switch to primary seatbelt enforcement laws experience an increase in belt use of about 10 percent and a savings of approximately $11 million.

For the last three years MYAC has led seatbelt advocacy campaigns and education programs to raise awareness for seatbelt usage and the benefits of wearing seatbelts throughout Idaho. Currently MYAC has helped increase support of this cause with numerous agencies including: St. Luke’s; Buckle Up For Bobby; Idaho State Police; Meridian, Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, Glenn’s Ferry, and countless other youth organizations as well as individuals throughout the state.

This year Senator Chuck Winder stepped up in support of MYAC to sponsor the bill, S 1312, which would be a three year pilot program, moving seatbelt enforcement laws from secondary to primary status for persons under the age of 18. The first year of the program would be focused on education efforts. Years two and three would result in an infraction for persons 17 and under if they are not wearing their seatbelt. This approach is similar to what is required for wearing helmets on motorcycles, as those 17 and under are required to wear helmets in Idaho.

The Senate Transportation Committee listened to the testimony and approved it, so it is now awaiting action by the full Senate. I believe this bill is the right thing for our youth and our State. Regardless of what action takes place in the Senate or the House this session, MYAC continues to impress and make a difference in this community and across the state. If you believe in what they are doing and you want to make a difference, I encourage you to pick up the phone, write an email, or fax in a letter to your legislators so they know you support this common sense approach to keeping our kids safe.

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