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Missouri cops launch effort to get teens to buckle up

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cops across Missouri are going to be cracking down on teenage drivers who aren’t wearing their seat belts starting Thursday.

Nationwide, 90 percent of drivers now wear their seat belts, but in Missouri that number is much lower, especially among teenage drivers. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation's Highway Safety Director, just 70 percent of Missouri teens wear seat belts and it’s having deadly consequences.

Of the 196 Missouri teenagers killed in traffic crashes in the past three years, three-quarters of them weren’t buckled up. That includes teens killed last year in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs.

Kansas City police are still tying to figure out if four teens killed so far in 2017 were wearing seat belts. Those crashes involved students in Lee’s Summit and Hickman Mills schools.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in Missouri, accounting for nearly 12 percent of all traffic fatalities.

“The stats show the younger drivers are usually not our best drivers. They are still learning, so if they are going to be in crashes we want them buckled up,” Lee's Summit Police Sgt. Chris Depue said.

“I see people getting in car accidents all the time and you just want to take that extra precaution and put it on,” Briauna Abell, 17, said as she pulled out of Lee's Summit High School.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts can reduce the risk of fatal injuries to front-seat passengers by 45 percent. Police can’t pull most people over simply for not wearing a seat belt, but because of Missouri’s graduated drivers license law, they can if you are under 18.