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Local Police Officers Honored for Seat Belt Enforcement

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) this week honored law enforcement officers from 122 agencies across the Commonwealth for their efforts to increase the use of seat belts and child restraints in motor vehicles.

The Governor’s Occupant Protection Awards ceremony was held at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington. Awards were presented to officers with the most occupant protection citations in each agency and division. There are six divisions, broken down by number of officers within the agency, and a division for Kentucky State Police.

“These officers, their departments and agencies render a great service for public safety by enforcing our occupant protection laws,” KOHS Executive Director Noelle Hunter said before presenting the awards. “It comes down to this:  Officers would rather write a seat belt or car restraint citation than make a death notification.” 

All winners received a highway safety coin while each division winner was presented with an encased commemorative baseball bat from Louisville Slugger, a Kentucky historic industry leader.  

“I’m honored to introduce the inaugural Highway Safety All-Star Award at today’s ceremony,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regional Administrator Dr. Beth Baker. “By partnering with Louisville Slugger, an iconic Kentucky institution, we are recognizing those who go above and beyond to aid our mission of saving lives on Kentucky roadways. An all-star is defined as ‘outstanding performers or participants’ and these law enforcement officers embody those characteristics.”

According to the NHTSA, seat belts, when worn correctly, are proven to reduce the risk of fatal injuries to front-seat occupants by 45 percent – and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. Also according to NHTSA, a properly installed, belt-positioning booster seat lowers the risk of injury to children by nearly 60 percent, compared with seat belts alone.

“We continue to see improvement, and I applaud Kentucky’s efforts to raise awareness and increase enforcement of this life-saving measure,” said Dr. Baker. “Writing citations is not a strategy designed to increase arrests; in fact, it may yield in decreased citation counts over time, which is our goal.”

With the passage of the primary law, Kentucky’s seat belt usage rate increased from 67 percent in 2006 to 86.5 percent in 2016. The national seat belt usage rate is 90.1 percent.

Winners from Northern Kentucky agencies:

Division One

Officer Scott Hildebrand - Cold Spring Police

Sgt. Ronnie Gross - Southgate Police

Patrolman Cody Blevins - Williamstown Police

Division Two

Officer Michael Brown - Bellevue Police

Patrolman Shaun Seger - Dayton Police

Officer Jamie Ruehl - Edgewood Police

Officer Thomas Bradford - Ft. Mitchell Police

Officer Brandon Laffin - Ft. Thomas Police

Sgt. Jonathan Colwell - Ft. Wright Police

Det. Mark Wilke - Highland Heights Police

Patrolman Jeff Hord - Ludlow Police

Officer Jonathan Payne - Northern Kentucky University Police

Specialist Tim Bailey - Taylor Mill Police

Patrolman Mickey Collins - Wilder Police

Division Three

Patrolman Jacob Daley - Campbell Co. Police

Officer David Watts - CVG Airport Police

Officer Cameron Day - Erlanger Police

Patrolman Travis Hager - Independence Police

Patrolman Aaron Schihl - Kenton County Police

Officer Todd Suszek - Newport Police

Division Four

Officer Christopher Boone - Florence Police

Division Five

Dep. Dustin Bowling - Boone County Sheriff's Dept.

Specialist Erik Ruete - Covington Police

Kentucky State Police

Officer Kalin Caudill - KSP POst 6 - Dry Ridge

-Staff report

Photo: Division 2 winners (provided)