In McPherson, use your cell phone or forget to buckle up while driving near the high school next two weeks and expect to get caught. Expect a ticket, part of a focused effort to increase enforcement near high schools in several states.

Beginning February 24 through March 6, the McPherson Police Department will join other law enforcement agencies in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma with increased enforcement near high schools to raise awareness on roadway safety.

According for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,255 (15 to 19) drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017, the most recent statistics available. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States – ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence.

"Even one teen death is unacceptable," Patrol Captain Jason Cummins said. "Please slow down, put the phone away or turn it off, and always buckle up."

Officers will issue citations to any individual who refuses to obey the traffic laws, whether it is for speeding, texting or failing to buckle up. According to the deparment, officers will try and remind teens that driving "is a privilege" and encourage them to learn about the importance of driving safely.

According to the NHTSA, dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen's risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. Talking or texting on the phone takes focus off the task of driving, and significantly reduces the ability to react to a roadway hazard, incident, or inclement weather.

In Kansas the use of a cell phone while driving is prohibited for anyone driving under a learner’s permit or intermediate license.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting is the most alarming distraction for drivers. Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

MPD will not be the only agency with extra eyes near schools — several departments across the state will be doing the same thing, as will the Kansas Highway Patrol. About 175 schools in 67 counties will participate.

In 2018, nearly half of all Kansas teens who died in traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

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