Are police cracking down on child seatbelt laws?

Contact 5 Special Report

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Crash simulation video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows the dramatic results of what can happen when kids in cars, aren’t buckled up in them. 

The video shows a child mannequin shooting through the front of a windshield.

It's a violent portrayal that is still painstakingly real Stacy Satchell and her young daughter.

Three years ago Satchell got a call.

"I remember throwing the phone to the bed," she said.

Her two sons, 11 year old Shane and 18 month old Stephaune along with a family friend, were dead. 

All of them were thrown from their father's car during a crash along the turnpike in Martin County.

Not one of them was strapped in.

"Because they didn't have a seatbelt on, they were ejected immediately. Not buckling up changed my life forever,” said Satchell.

But kids not buckling up is an everyday problem.

The Contact 5 Investigators hit the streets with Martin County Traffic Lt. Stephen Mochen.

“Do you know why I stopped you? Well you have your seatbelt on, she doesn't,” Mochen stated to a mother driving a mini-van.

Turns out, the 15-year-old didn’t want to put her seatbelt on, despite riding in the passenger seat. She told Contact 5 Investigator Katie Lagrone her reason why. 

"The lap belt hurts my belly ring so I don't like this part," she said. Her mother had another explanation.

"I'm so used to doing mine that I figured it was second nature that she would do hers," said Laura Picard.

Down south in Palm Beach County, the Contact 5 Investigators watched kids let loose by standing and sitting on top of a car.

Once they were inside, we witnessed the two boys in the back seat not buckle up.

The boys’ mother didn’t say much. 

“Um, we just left Wal-mart," she told the Contact 5 Investigators.

Court records show these parents aren't alone. 

The Contact 5 Investigators analyzed seatbelt violations in Palm Beach County and along the Treasure Coast. We found, since 2009, roughly one out of  8 seatbelt tickets was issued because someone in the car was unrestrained and underage.

When it comes to enforcing these child seatbelt laws, we found some police agencies really crack down.

"From the Chief on down to the newest officer, it is a recognized goal of our agency to enforce these things," said Lt. Brandon Aultman of the Greenacres Police Department.

In Greenacres, writing seatbelt tickets recently earned police a flashy new pick up truck.

"This is the 4th year in a row that we’ve come in the top 3 in our category in the state," said Aultman.

But perhaps more telling than the number of seatbelt tickets written in this small city of just 6 square miles is the number of tickets not being issued in a city 10 times its size.

During the same period, Greenacres police wrote nearly 750 tickets to drivers breaking child seatbelt laws,  West Palm Beach Police issued just 235, that's three times fewer tickets.

Why? We don't know.

After a week of phone calls, emails, texts, even a visit, West Palm PD didn't provide any answers.

Stacy Satchell hopes her story will encourage everyone to make sure kids in cars are buckled up.

"I will tell them even if it’s a 5 second drive, please put that seatbelt on," she said.

Knowing in her world, it could have made all the difference.

Monday afternoon, West Palm Beach Police responded to the findings. In a statement, city spokesperson Elliot Cohen writes,

"We've made the decision to dedicate as many officers as possible to focus on our neighborhoods. With our intelligence-led policing, we have been able to pinpoint exactly where our officers should focus in the neighborhoods which is more of a department priority right now."

Meantime, the Martin County Sheriff's Department is about to launch a new campaign. "Take five stay alive" is aimed at encouraging drivers and passengers to take five seconds to buckle up.

 

 

 

 

 


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