By MICHELLE R. DAVIS
In Elgin, parents who don’t buckle up their kids have been getting potentially lifesaving lectures from the local police chief.
Chief Harold Brown Came up with the personal chats to help emphasize the importance of keeping children buckled up when riding in a car. Instead of giving out tickets, he gives out packs of Life savers candy and junior police badge stickers along with good advice.
“I notice parents had started getting careless, and I wanted to do something without getting everybody mad,” Brown said. “I just thought it was neat to call it a life saver stop because that’s what it might be.”
By law a child less than 1 year old is required to be in car seat or some type of restraint seating. Brown said. Kids from 1 to 5 years old sitting in the back seat must be in a car seat or wearing a seat belt, and kids under 4 in the front seat must have a child restraint seat. There is a $25 fine for each offense, Brown said.
Brown set up a police stop outside of Blaney Elementary School, where parents often drop their children off in the morning. He flagged cars down, check to see if children were buckled up, and reminded parents that seat belts keep kids from being injured or killed in car accidents.
“There were several red faces in the crowd,” said Brown of those whose children weren’t wearing seat belts. “One lady pulled off the road and put a seat belt on.” Brown said he stopped about 100 cars.
Blaney Principal Rose Sheheen said the kids loved the stops and talked about seeing the police during school. Sheheen said she believes children will now remind their parents to buckle up.
“We think it’s really very important,” she said. “All you have to do is lose one child. THey are irreplaceable and . . . it’s a tragedy.”
The $300 Brown used to buy the candy and stickers came from money generated by the town’s annual festival, the Catfish Stomp.
In addition to the stops at Blaney, Brown also visited local nursery schools and day-care centers to tell kids to wear their seat belts.
“I think a lot of parents just don’t think about,” Brown said. “Nobody wants a child hurt.”
Sheheen said she hopes Brown will continued the stops at Blaney and said she has noticed more parents buckling their children into seat belts.
Brown said he will continue the program when school begins again next fall. But there will be one change. Next time, he’ll be giving out tickets.