AMES, Iowa -- Compared to 2018, police departments in central Iowa haven’t seen much improvement on the roads when it comes to traffic accidents and violations. This is leading law enforcement to crack down on fundamental safety measures such as seat belts, particularly in Ames.
Ames Police Sgt. Derek Grooters said Ames has a 92 percent to 95 percent seat belt usage rate, which is higher than the state average. However, Grooters also said that most of this data is taken during the day and the data might change if taken at night. That is why the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) gave the Ames Police Department a $5,000 grant to better monitor the roads at night.
Grooters said drivers are 18 percent less likely to wear seat belts at night. The GTSB and the police department have yet to pinpoint exactly why people are less likely to wear their seat belts at that time. A guess is that people feel that they are less detectable when it’s dark. Grooters admitted it does make it harder at night to observe drivers. Ames police will now be stationed around well lit intersections to catch those who aren’t wearing their seat belts. To do that, they need officers to work overtime, which is what the GTSB grant is primarily used to fund.
“Obviously, the money is a little incentive for it but also the officers have that extra time to just focus on traffic enforcement and seat belt enforcement rather than having to do all their duties and taking calls for service,” Grooters said.
Grooters said between 2018 and 2019 there have been 21 crashes during nighttime hours and 34 injuries that were reported without seat belts in Ames. The police department is hoping that this grant can help them keep central Iowans safe on the roads.
“The GTSB motto is 'Click It or Ticket,'” Grooters said. “Our main goal is to have people wear those seat belts, be safe on the roadway and get to where they need to be going safely.”