Major Ernesto Duarte
Florida Highway Patrol
For Release June 29, 2005:
Tallahassee - The Florida Highway Patrol wishes all Florida residents and visitors a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. For most, the holiday weekend will bring picnics and patriotic parades, concerts, and fireworks. However, each year far too many individuals lose their lives in automobile crashes. In order to ensure a safe holiday experience for everyone, Florida Highway Patrol troopers will be out in full force conducting enforcement patrols, including strict enforcement of Florida’s new primary seat belt law, during the July 4th holiday, which begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 1, and ends at midnight, Monday, July 4, 2005.
As in the past, Colonel Chris Knight, FHP Director, has suspended office operations for all sworn personnel, effective at the close of the workday on Thursday, June 30th. All FHP sworn personnel normally assigned to administrative duties will be reassigned to patrol duties beginning Friday, July 1st, through Monday, July 4th.
Motorists in Florida are reminded of the new Primary Seat Belt Law which becomes effective July 1, 2005. The new primary law, passed by the 2005 Florida Legislature and signed by Governor Jeb Bush recently, requires that occupants (including the driver) of a motor vehicle under the age of 18 buckle up in their vehicle. Law enforcement officers can now stop any vehicle when drivers or occupants under the age of 18 are seen not wearing seat belts. Under the new Primary Seat Belt Law, drivers will be held responsible for the failure of any occupant under the age of 18 who fails to buckle up.
Despite the increase in the safety belt usage rate, traffic crash fatalities remain the leading cause of death for Florida's teenagers--a cause of death that is preventable in many cases by simply buckling up. In order to help decrease the teen fatality rate, troopers will begin strictly enforcing the new primary seat belt law on July 1, 2005. “We applaud the Governor and Legislature for passing this important primary safety belt legislation, adding strength to Florida's Safety Belt Law,” said Colonel Knight. "Wearing a seat belt is a life-saving habit and forming that habit will be the goal of strict enforcement of the new law," Knight added.
During last year’s 96-hour 4th of July holiday, 42 persons were killed in traffic crashes in Florida: 57% of those drivers and passengers who were killed in vehicles normally equipped with safety belts were not using them; also, 34% of the fatal traffic crashes were alcohol-related. Troopers will be concentrating their enforcement efforts on drunk, speeding, and aggressive drivers, and those who fail to buckle up or properly restrain their child passengers.
Motorists are again being encouraged to call *FHP (*347) on their cellular phone to report drunk, aggressive, or other dangerous drivers. Callers can remain anonymous. Motorists who experience car trouble on the highway or otherwise need assistance from the FHP are also encouraged to use *FHP.