It is not uncommon to see police officers patroling school zones, but for a two-week period, they will be watching the areas around high schools even more.

The Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office's Seatbelts Are For Everyone, which is also known as SAFE, began Feb. 26 and runs through March 9.

"We always patrol our school zones before and after school, but for the two weeks during the seatbelt enforcement, we try to watch extra for seatbelt usage," said Officer Terry Reed of the Lindsborg Police Department.

According to the KTSRO, seatbelts reduce the risk of front seat passengers receiving a fatal injury in a crash by 45 percent. The greatest lifetime chance of crashing occurs in the first six months after a driver gets their license and the fatality rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 60.

In 2015, 13 teens lost their lives due to car crashes in Kansas; 40 percent of those teens were either not wearing a seatbelt at all or wearing it improperly.

"There are people out there who think they shouldn't have to wear their seatbelt," Reed said.

Fortunately, Smoky Valley High School students almost always remember to buckle up when driving or riding in a car.

"We're actually really happy that when we do enforcement around the high school, we really don't catch anybody," Reed said. "Every once in a while, we'll catch one of them not wearing their seatbelt but for the most part, the kids who go to school here are really good about wearing their seatbelts."

Part of their willingness to wear their seatbelt may come from the implementation of the SAFE programs.

"We have had some fatality accidents involving youth; that might also be a factor," Reed noted.

Anyone riding in the front seat of a car must wear a seatbelt at all times. Drivers can be pulled over if they, their front seat passenger or a back seat rider under 18 is not buckled up. Backseat passengers 18 or older can also be cited for not wearing a seatbelt, but not as a primary violation.

A seatbelt ticket costs those 18 and older $30; those ages 14 to 17 have to pay $60.

"It used to be only $10 for a seatbelt ticket, and no court cost," Reed said. "We'd write those tickets and I don't think it had that much of an effect on people, because it was only $10."

"The driver is responsible and will receive a citation for anyone (unrestrained) in the vehicle under 14 years of age," said McPherson County Sheriff Jerry Montagne.

Montagne noted the McPherson County Sheriff's Office is also taking part in being extra vigilant for seatbelt violations.

"The McPherson County Sheriff's Office believes all drivers should be buckled up for safety," Montagne said. "If we can stop one death or injury, it's worth it."

A watchful eye is also being kept on McPherson High School student drivers.

"We decided to participate in the traffic enforcement initiative to help promote awareness and reduce the number of teens losing their lives in motor vehicle crashes due to not being properly restrained," said  Executive Sgt. Mark Brinck, public information officer for the McPherson Police Department.

Having officers present near schools encourages drivers to slow down and pay attention to their environment.

"We do spend a lot of time in the school zones just to make them safer," Reed said.

"We are just teaming up with all local agencies across the state to help enforce (SAFE)," Montagne said. "It's a good cause."

For more information about SAFE, visit https://www.ktsro.org/safe.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.