SIKESTON - The Sikeston Department of Public Safety will participate in a new enforcement and educational program to reduce injuries and deaths among young drivers.
"Safety is our No. 1 concern with our youth today," said Sgt. Shirley Porter of the DPS.
Young drivers are a high-risk age group in the state, according to law enforcement officials. Drivers under the age of 21 comprise only 10 percent of the licensed drivers but are involved in nearly 30 percent of traffic crashed.
In 2003, a total of 288 people were killed and 21,233 injured in traffic crashes involving young drivers. Or, to put it another way, one person was killed or injured every 24 minutes in traffic crashes with young drivers last year on Missouri roadways.
Teens are also less likely to use seat belts, according to law enforcement statistics. A recent survey among teens in the state revealed 54 percent of them use seat belts as compared with the overall statewide safety belt usage rate of 76 percent.
Operation Safe Teen will begin in Sikeston sometime next week, Porter said. The additional enforcement and educational efforts by DPS, which are to be conducted during February and March, are funded by a $2,160 grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
As part of Operation Safe Teen, driver license checkpoints will be conducted in Sikeston and other selected areas of the state to make sure all drivers, including young drivers operating on a graduated driver license, are operating within the restrictions on their license.
Officers will also be checking for proof of insurance and enforcing the provisions of the law that make safety belt usage a requirement of the intermediate license.