Police enforcing seatbelt use

Christina Calloway

Sande Barnes believes she is living proof that seatbelts save lives.

That’s why she’s in full support of Operation Buckle Down, a state-funded effort by the Portales Police Department this month to enforce seatbelt and child safety restraint.

Barnes, a 60-year-old Portales resident and Army veteran, says she has avoided serious or even fatal injuries in a pair of vehicle accidents when she lived in Indiana as a result of wearing a seatbelt.

“In the first situation had I not been in my seatbelt, I would have been through the windshield,” said Barnes, whose car was struck almost head on by a truck during a rain storm. “The thing is, very rarely is a seatbelt not an aid in safety.”

In the second accident when her car skidded off the road and overturned, the seatbelt pulled her into the seat and protected her.

“The person who called 911 said, ‘whoever is in that little black car could not possibly be alive,’” said Barnes. “So they brought a (coroner’s vehicle) out to my car. I told them I wasn’t ready for that yet.”

Operation Buckle Down started Jan. 9.

The grant allows the Portales Police Department to pay patrol officers overtime to concentrate specifically on seatbelt and child safety violations.

“We’ve been enforcing these laws all along but now we’re doing it on a bigger scale with officers dedicated to enforce them,” said Sgt. Kane Wyatt of the Portales Police Department. “Our hope is that we will increase compliance with those laws and reduce injury crashes because our main concern is that motorists are being safe.”

Wyatt is hopeful doing a public information campaign for Operation Buckle Down will bring awareness about seatbelt safety.

In 2011, there were 45 citations for child restraint violations and 91 for seatbelt violations in the city of Portales, according to Wyatt.

“Our motivation is to reduce injury crashes, we would rather educate the public and see them comply with those laws than to issue a citation,” Wyatt said. “We will be out enforcing those laws in an effort to ensure public safety.”

Barnes is also a stickler for proper child restraint safety because she is convinced that is the reason why her two granddaughters survived a automobile accident when they were young.

“Those little girls are so beautiful and so precious that I cannot imagine a life without them,” Barnes said.

Wyatt said later this year the Portales police would like to sponsor a child safety restraint clinic.