Editorial: Probable cause shackles program
June 4, 2011
Kudos to Moffat County High School Student Council and Twentymile Coal Co. for resurrecting the seatbelt awareness program, which regretfully was dropped due to legal issues surrounding probable cause. While part of the Craig Police Department, the program fostered positive interactions between youth and law enforcement.
Seatbelt usage isn't a safety precaution — it's a necessity.
Unfortunately, our community has been saddled with tragic deaths in the past because people of all ages have forgotten to buckle up. These fatalities are completely avoidable.
Given this, the Editorial Board was saddened when the Craig Police Department, handcuffed by issues surrounding probable cause, was prompted to drop a successful student seatbelt awareness program last year.
The program, which began in 1994, entailed officers pulling over students who were wearing seatbelts and rewarding them with gift certificates to local businesses.
However, trouble arose for the program when some young drivers were caught with illegal materials during those traffic stops, hence the issue with probable cause, and an ultimately worthwhile program was shut down.
This is a shame for two reasons, the Editorial Board contends.
First, the program integrated the community in rewarding students for responsible behavior behind the wheel, hopefully helping students begin a good habit for the rest of their lives.
Second, it gave young people an idea of police officers as being more than just hall monitors with a badge. It gave them the impression of police officers as being servants working on behalf of public safety.
That a good program was ended because of such strict adherence to the law is regrettable.
While legally the police department acted appropriately in ending the program, the program's benefits greatly outweighed the random setbacks that occurred with some of the traffic stops.
Thankfully, someone stepped in to fill the void.
Kudos to the Moffat County High School Student Council for rolling out its own version of the program, and also to Twentymile Coal Co. for donating scholarship money to the effort.
Because of their efforts, young drivers now have a reminder to buckle up and an awareness program with a valuable and perhaps life-saving message has new life.