It used to be that only law enforcement officials had the power to issue seat belt citations.
But in northern Idaho, kids recently joined the ranks of enforcers as part of the Junior Seat Belt Officer Program in Coeur d’Alene.
The program provided a creative opportunity for kids to help increase awareness about seat belt use. Along with an officer identification card, kids received mock citation books, allowing them to write “citations” to friends and family members for not wearing seat belts.
“The citations are simply a reminder for people to wear their seat belts,” said Officer Nick Knoll of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. “The kids are encouraged to discuss an appropriate fine amount – 25 cents, for example – for anyone caught not wearing a seat belt.”
Officers from the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls police departments and the Idaho State Police launched the program in November by visiting third-graders and talking with students about the importance of wearing seat belts. Participating elementary schools included Borah and Ramsey schools in Coeur d’Alene; and Mullan Trail, Ponderosa, Prairie View and Seltice schools in Post Falls.
For those who signed up as Junior Seat Belt Officers, a signed oath agreeing to always buckle up was one of the main requirements, along with agreement from the student’s family to participate.
The children were encouraged to save fines collected and then spend the money on a family activity. A log at the back of the ticket book allowed students to track of how many citations were issued.
The program concluded before the December holiday school break. Three students who issued the most tickets were treated to dinner at the Hot Rod Café in Post Falls.
The café donated hats and a free dinner for each student. AAA of the Inland Northwest contributed $300 to the cost of the dinner and awarded rolling backpacks, luggage tags and pens to each winner.