(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) announced the dates for thier annual Click it. Or Ticket. campaign.
The department, along with University of Kansas Health Systems officials, Kansas Highway Patrol and a former Northwest Missouri football player, held a news conference to talk about the importance of buckling up.
"I can go for hours speaking about the moments I've had at crash scenes. Interacting with people who have worn seat belts following an event, and trying to speak to people that have significant injuries that are not buckled up," Ben Gardner, Kansas State Highway Patrol, said.
Cole Forney, NWMSU graduate, also spoke at the conference. He said he became a seat belt advocate after being involved in a serious accident in January of 2017.
"I just hit a slick spot, some black ice. That's the last thing I remember, and then I woke up at KU," Forney said.
Forney was not wearing a seat belt at the time of his accident and was ejected from the car. He suffered broken bones, multiple surgeries and months in the hospital.
"My family and friends made it better though, you know, but it really was a long process," Forney said. "We were always going to the doctor's like once a week."
However, Forney wasn't the only person in the vehicle at the time of the accident. His friend, Jake, was with him and was wearing his seat belt.
Jake walked away from the crash with minor injuries.
"I always wear it. Even if it's like a ten second drive I wear it. You just - you never know," Forney said.
Kansas and Missouri both rank in the bottom third of seat belt usage in the United States. According to the Federal Highway Patrol, the national average for safety belt usage is 90 percent, while Kansas sits at 82 percent and Missouri at 81 percent.
In 2017, nearly half of the 359 deaths from crashes in Kansas were not buckled, 56 percent of 18-to-34-year old occupants killed in crashes were not wearing their seat belts and male pick-up truck drivers between the ages of 21-34, and drivers in rural areas are among the top unrestrained fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
From 2014 to 2016, the NHTSA said seat belts saved nearly 41,500 lives across the country.
“Seat belts save lives every day. But they only save lives when they are used and there are still many people in Kansas who don’t buckle up,” said Chris Bortz, KDOT Traffic Safety Program Manager. “Our goal is 100 percent compliance. It doesn’t matter where you go, drivers need to buckle up for every ride, every time because a deadly crash can happen to anyone.”
The Click it. or Ticket. campaign will kick off May 21st - June 3rd.
Forney said he hopes to encourage more people to buckle up after getting behind the wheel.
"I just kind of tell them what I went through and trust me it's something you don't want to experience," Forney said.
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