Straight A student Karenine Saint Louis, 13, wasn’t wearing a seat belt one day this summer when the Ford F-150 truck she sat in crashed west of Lantana, killing her.
And neither was Jeremy Standridge , 26, this past year when he lost control of his pickup, crashed it on Congress Avenue, north of Lantana Road and then died.
Peter Olivier , 20, also wasn’t buckled in when he was killed in a wreck on Interstate 95 near Lantana two years ago. None of the seven young men in the SUV were.
Boynton police have noticed an increase in the number of people not wearing a seat belt or even properly restraining children in the car, said Sgt. Phil Hawkins.
Police hope an Occupant Protection and Child Passenger Safety Program will change that mentalitythanks to a $20,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.
Boynton officers plan to review crash data weekly to determine the locations of the most crashes and fatal wrecks. Then, they’ll hit the streets to spread awareness about the importance of wearing seat belts and restraining young ones.
“This grant will allow us to dedicate resources specifically to educating drivers about the importance of wearing a seat belt and ensuring that they are properly restrained, as are their children and any other occupant of the vehicle,” Hawkins said.
Statewide, about 23 percent of fatal crashes and 10 percent of crashes with serious injuries involved unrestrained occupants, according to FDOT.
About 15 municipalities received money from the state for similar programs. In Palm Beach County, FDOT awarded Jupiter $15,000, Delray Beach $20,000 and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office $75,000.
According to Boynton police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater, the most crashes in Boynton occur at these three spots:
- Gateway Boulevard and Interstate 95.
- Boynton Beach Boulevard and Interstate 95.
- 2000 W. Woolbright Rd. near Congress Avenue.
From 2014 to 2016, fatal crashes in Boynton increased from four to 11. Crashes with injuries during that time increased from 506 to 693, and total crashes increased from 2,843 to 3,338, according to police. Meanwhile, the number of seat belt/child restraint citations have decreased from 434 to 172.
According to the state, that decrease could be because more drivers and occupants are wearing seat belts across Florida. A June study showed that the rate at which occupants were buckled up through the state reached 90.2 percent, the highest since 2008 when the rate was 81.7 percent.
Boynton ranks 13 out of 99 municipalities, with a population up to 75,000, for occupants being protected in wrecks with serious injuries and fatalities, according to FDOT. Bradenton has the best ranking and Parkland the worst.