Buckle up or else...

The Penn Police Department will be looking to see if you’re wearing seatbelts Thanksgiving weekend as part of a statewide safety campaign, “Buckle Up Pennsylvania.”

The police recently received a grant of $7,700 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to encourage seatbelt use, making Penn the first university ever to be included in the “Buckle Up” program, said Lt. Thomas C. Messner, who is coordinating the police efforts.

The grant is funding four phases. The first was during Labor Day weekend. Thanksgiving, Christmas time and February come next. The department will be out in full force at those times to educate drivers on the merits of using seatbelts and to enforce their use.

For the upcoming Thanksgiving break, the department will conduct a pre-survey from Nov. 12 through Nov. 16 to measure compliance to the state seat-belt law.

This will be followed by the actual enforcement phase from Nov. 19 to Nov. 25. If stopped and cited for a traffic violation, drivers who either are not buckled up or are carrying unbuckled passengers will receive a secondary citation of at least $50 and an educational flyer, which also will be posted around campus, Messner said. Finally, a post-survey Nov. 26 to 30 will adjudge the effectiveness of the police efforts.

“Both PennDOT and Penn are excited about our involvement,” said Messner.

The state program’s immediate goal is to raise urban seatbelt use among all motor vehicle passengers to the state level, which is around 70 percent, Messner said. The national goal is ultimately to raise seatbelt use to 90 percent by the year 2005.

Messner noted that drivers in urban environments tend to be a little more relaxed, thinking that they are only going for a short trip. “That is all wrong, because accidents are more likely to happen in cities,” he said.

The police will patrol at Market Street and on 38th Street in the vicinity of the Penn campus. Messner said the police hope to get the message out that using a seat belt doubles the chances of survival in the event of an accident.

Originally published on November 8, 2001