Officials implement new seat belt enforcement zone in Atoka

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ATOKA COUNTY, OK -- The roads around Atoka Public Schools have now been designated a seat belt enforcement zone. Troopers say they will be patrolling and checking to make sure drivers are buckled up and hope this will prevent more fatalities in the future.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Captain, Jeff Sewell, says of all the fatality accidents statewide involving teen drivers, 74 percent of the victims were not wearing seat belts.

That's why OHP requested ODOT implement a seat belt enforcement zone near Atoka Public Schools.

"We're using this as an awareness more than anything," Sewell said. "We will be working seat belts out here, we will be having seat belt checks on this corridor, and what we want to do first is educate people."

Since the roads around the schools are heavily traveled, Sewell and Atoka High School Principal, Steve Osborn, decided to ask ODOT to put the seat belt enforcement zone between Highway 7 and the Highway 3 bypass to protect kids and inform all drivers about seat belt safety.

"OHP will be meeting with our students by grade level and educating them on why they need to wear their seat belts and to wear them properly, and we'll have assemblies here at the high school to do so," Osborn said.

ODOT Division 2 Traffic Engineer, Chad Pendley, says ODOT was more than happy to help implement this first seat belt enforcement zone in the state.

"There are other enforcement zones, what we call safety corridors," Pendley said. "It's a pilot program and some of those are on our interstate highways, but this is the first safety belt enforcement zone that I'm aware of."

Pendley says ODOT put up four signs near Atoka Public schools just this week.

"There's one by the McDonald' s on State Highway 7 near the intersection of 69 and 75," Pendley said. "Then we have one on the west end of town coming in and then we have them on both ends of Greathouse which is our State Highway 3 bypass."

"Maybe we can save some lives this way," Sewell said.

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