LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Surely you've seen the television commercials or passed by the billboards touting the importance of using seat belts: They saved an estimated 12,546 lives in 2010 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Click It or Ticket," the campaign slogan goes. No excuses. No exceptions.
"I put mine on as soon as I get in the car. It's a no-brainer," Lafayette resident Amber Murphy said. "You never know what can happen when you're driving."
But not everyone thinks the same — apparently, not even some police officers.
A 2011 study by the NHTSA of crash data involving law enforcement found that 55 percent of 733 on-duty officers who died in crashes between 1980 and 2008 did not have their seat belts fastened.
And 19 percent of them, or 139 officers, were ejected from their vehicles.
Compare that to an estimated 84 percent of U.S. drivers who do use their seat belts.
"Well, that's not fair at all. If I have to use mine, so do the cops who write the tickets," Lafayette resident Brian Collins told The Star Press (http://on.jconline.com/QNbiR0 ). "They need to lead by example."
Indiana had 19 officer fatalities during the NHTSA report's time frame.
The national data was troubling to Lafayette-area police commanders. All Tippecanoe County law enforcement agencies — Lafayette, West Lafayette, Purdue University, Indiana State Police and the sheriff's office — confirmed they have department policies requiring on-duty officers to follow state law and buckle up.
"There is no question that seat belts save lives," Sheriff Tracy Brown said. "Your average police officer sees firsthand the devastation that can be caused in a crash when you're not properly restrained.
"There's no excuse to not use one."
Failing to do so could result in some type of reprimand or disciplinary action at the Lafayette Police Department, Chief Don Roush said.
At least one Lafayette police officer was injured in recent years in a crash where he did not have his seat belt fastened, according to Journal & Courier archives.
On Jan. 2, 2006, Officer Eric Wallace hit a sign post in the parking lot near Kmart on Indiana 38 East and suffered minor bleeding.
Locally, only the West Lafayette Police Department allows some exceptions to its seat belt policy, such as while doing building checks.
"We do have some instances where they're not ideal, like patrolling alleys at night," Chief Jason Dombkowski said.
"If they're going at low speeds, patrolling generally at under 20 mph and are supposed to be able to get out and address something pretty quickly.
"But under normal driving conditions — and especially in emergency situations — absolutely, officers must use their seat belts."
Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com