The Hingham Police Department has reached out to 10 local gas stations for support in the town's newest seat belt awareness initiative, aimed at reminding drivers to buckle up.
The 7x7 inch, brightly colored stickers, placed at pumps throughout town, have a simple message, “We want to see you again,” it says. “After you fill up, Buckle Up!”
It’s only one of the things the department is doing to meet its 2011 goal to reduce injuries associated with crashes.
“In searching for ways to educate and remind drivers to buckle up, we looked at areas where drivers typically remove their seat belts or step out for a short time,” Sergeant Steven Dearth said in a release. “[So] we met with several gas station managers. We asked if they would be willing to display such stickers.”
Even with full-service pumps, drivers often unbuckle to reach for their wallet, reach for something inside the front seat, or simply unbuckle to see the total price on the pump dashboard.
Yet with a variety of stickers and warning labels already displayed on the pump, designing a sticker that wouldn’t get lost in all the noise proved difficult initially.
Officers worked with gas station managers to figure out the best attention-getting graphic and determine the best size. Additionally, officers designed the reminder with a child-like print, which will hopefully attract the attention of back-seat passengers as well as those in the front seat.
“The stickers are designed with a ‘Disney-like’ print to attract the attention of children who may be in the car while a parent pumping gas. Our hope is that it may get children’s attention and they may ask, ‘What does that say?’ Such a conversation itself serves as a great reminder for the parent,” Dearth said.
According to A.J.’s Gulf General Manager Brian Strout, the average person spends about four minutes at the pump. It’s a lot of time to read a reminder, and something that will hopefully make a difference.
“We all live busy lives and it’s easy to forget something as simple as putting our seat belts on. We hope that all of the service stations will follow us and the Hingham police in reminding our customers to be safe,” Strout said.
The department paid for the stickers themselves, a cost totaling $225. The stickers were dropped off around town this week, and will be visible on the front of the pump.
Although not a minuscule cost, it’s a small price for something of tantamount importance, Dearth said.
“Many drivers forget or simply don’t think they need to buckle up on local roads in that are near their house or on short trips," Dearth said. "In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 80% of fatal crashes happen with 25 miles of the driver’s home and with speed limits of 40 MPH or less."
Although some drivers don’t wear seatbelts because they fear being trapped by fire or water after a crash, according to the NHTSA, less than .5 percent of all injury-producing collisions involve fire or submersion.
In the event such a thing does occur, wearing a seat belt can help you remain conscience and alert, and thus capable of escaping quickly.
“Properly used, seat belts are 45% effective in preventing deaths and 50% effective in preventing serious injuries,” Dearth said. “[And] no other single safety device has as much potential for immediately preventing deaths and injuries.”
For drivers that remain bent on not wearing a seat belt, Hingham Police are continuing to crack down.
In 2011, through Oct. 12, Hingham police issued 401 citations – compared to only 317 in the same period in 2010. However there have only been 65 crashes with serious injury in 2011, compared with 81 for 2010.
“This is not a revenue generating effort,” Dearth said. “It is about saving lives and reducing injuries.”
In fact, fines for seat belt or child passenger safety violation is $25.00, one of the lowest traffic violation fines in Massachusetts - they range from $20.00 for following too closely to $500.00 for having an open container of alcohol in the car.
Despite the decrease in crashes with serious injury, the number of citations for child passenger (under 12-years old) restraint violations has increased, from 7 in 2008, 11 in 2009, 16 in 2010, and 15 in 2011.
It’s something this initiative hopes to change, Dearth said.
“Sometimes our involvement in a crash is beyond our control, but what happens to us during a crash is often within our control, if we use out seat belt,” Dearth said. “We recommend you make it a habit … Ask any police officer, firefighter or the staff at any emergency room and they will tell you, Seat belt saves lives’.”