The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office announced last week that it is joining with statewide law enforcement March 15-31 for a high visibility youth seat belt mobilization to help increase seat belt use among teens and reduce highway fatalities.

Only 74 percent of Missouri teens wear their seat belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Seven out of 10 teen vehicle drivers and passengers killed in traffic crashes are unbuckled.

Under the Graduated Driver's License (GDL) law, teens are required to wear their seat belt as it's a primary offense, meaning they can be pulled over solely for not wearing their seat belt.

"Local motorists should be prepared for stepped up seat belt enforcement," said Sheriff Brad DeLay. "We'll be out there to remind you seat belts can -- and do -- save lives."

Seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

Buckle Up and Arrive Alive. For more information on Missouri seat belt useage, visit www.saveMOlives.com.

St. Patrick's Day enforcement

If your weekend plans include having a few drinks while watching some live basketball action or bending an elbow at your local Irish bar, make sure it also includes a sober ride home. Law enforcement agencies across Missouri will be participating in additional patrols to prevent the often deadly consequences of impaired driving. Their message is clear: drive sober or get pulled over.

Based on preliminary 2018 data, 184 people were killed and 531 more were seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes that involved at least one substance-impaired driver. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety reminds motorists of the various options available to get everyone home safe. Designating a sober driver, calling a cab or using public transportation are just a few of those options. Remember, if you feel different, you drive different.

Besides driving completely sober from alcohol and drugs, motorists are also advised to put their cell phones down while driving and always buckle up -- everyone, every trip, every time. “We encourage all drivers to take responsibility and make smart choices so that everyone gets home safe,” said Jon Nelson, MoDOT assistant to the state highway safety and traffic engineer. “Drive sober, buckle up and phone down.”

To learn more, visit the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety website at savemolives.com, or follow us on social media at Save MO Lives.