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News Roundup -- Buckle up, or pay the fine/Host your own ‘water social’

Buckle up, or pay the fine

Bainbridge Police will be paying special attention to drivers’ left shoulders this month.

With a $3,500 state grant in hand, more officers will patrol the roads this month, making sure islanders are buckling up.

“Wearing seat belts is an effective tool in preventing injury,” said Bainbridge Police Traffic Officer Rob Corn. “There will be zero tolerance, and not a lot of warnings.”

Bainbridge police obtained the funding, which will cover overtime pay for the additional on-duty officers, from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission as part of the “Click it or Ticket” campaign.

The grant-funded enforcement period began Monday and will continue until June 5, Corn said.

The additional officers now on Bainbridge streets aren’t limited to stopping drivers for failing to buckle up.

“They’re not looking strictly for seat belts,” Corn said. “They’ll stop you for everything (illegal) but the goal is to watch for seat belts.”

The commission and Washington State Patrol introduced the campaign in 2002, the same year that not wearing seat belts became a primary offense.

This is the first grant-funded enforcement period since state courts upheld the primary seat belt law last year, allowing officers to stop motorists if they or their passengers are seen unbuckled – even in the absence of another violation, according to Corn.

State residents are increasingly driving safer, with significant improvements in the past two years. Traffic-related deaths on state highways have dropped more than 16 percent, from 658 deaths in 2002 to about 560 last year. The reduction in deaths is the result of tougher laws, safety education, road improvements and increased enforcement, according to the WSP.

This reduction marks the first time in over 40 years that traffic deaths dropped below 600, according to a recent statement by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The state’s aggressive approach toward traffic law enforcement and education has made it a national leader, with about 94 percent of residents buckling up before they drive.

Kitsap County ranks among the highest usage rates in the state.

But every death illustrates the need for improvement. About 60 percent of all auto collision deaths on state highways involved riders or passengers who failed to fasten their seat belts.

Nearly 90 percent of all those who were not seriously hurt in the same crashes were buckled up, according to the WSP.

– Tristan Baurick

Host your own ‘water social’

First there were suburban house parties for plastic storage containers, then for upscale cookware and now for watersheds.

“It’s a great way to meet neighbors and think of your neighborhood as a watershed instead of just your street,” said Cara Cruickshank, co-director of the Natural Landscapes Project, which promotes education about water quality and quantity.

“I want people to realize we are all connected by water,” she said. “A factory in China polluting (the air) hundreds of miles away is raining (pollution) on us.”

Water conservation and getting more water soaking into the ground – which naturally filters water and recharges the aquifers that are Bainbridge Island’s exclusive supply – begins in our own backyards.

Natural Landscapes Project wants to spread the word this summer through “watershed backyard socials.”

For the third year, NLP is looking for at least one host in each of the island’s 12 watersheds for a social.

Set in the late afternoon or early evening, the host will invite neighbors for refreshments, a chance to meet each other and to learn what they can do at home to protect the watershed.

“I want to have people think about how their property affects the watershed both above ground and below ground and into the sound,” Cruickshank said. “We’re drawing water more quickly than it is being replenished.”

The issue is storm water runoff. Ideally, the rains falling on the island nine months of the year would all soak into the ground and filter its way into the deep underground aquifers, but it’s a long way down. The Fletcher Bay aquifer, a major source of city drinking water, is 700-1,000 feet below sea level.

However, Cruickshank said, because of development and the accompanying increase of impervious surfaces – think streets, parking lots and roofs – the rain runs off instead of soaking in and may also sweep contaminants from car drippings in driveways or lawn chemicals into streams and sewers, which eventually empty into the sound.

Even grassy lawns do not absorb as much water as this region’s natural landscape of forest land, because existing, spongey forest duff – decaying leaves and organic matter -- are scraped from a building site for setting in foundations, before lawn turf is laid over.

“Lawns are almost as impermeable as concrete because of the site preparation and compaction and poor soils,” Cruickshank said.

The backyard social is also an opportunity to discuss ideas that the party host could consider to conserve water or prevent run off based on the characteristics of his or her property: from cisterns to collect rain water for summer watering to composting yard waste on-site to feed the lawn, making it more spongey and eliminating the need for “weed and feed” products that can contaminate runoff.

The backyard social is great if you are “looking for an excuse for a party,” Cruickshank said. At the same time it’s a “perspective shift of what ‘the neighborhood’ is.”

Those interested in hosting a backyard social can contact Cruickshank at 842-8504.

– Tina Lieu

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