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The South Carolina Highway Patrol is giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, "do you want fries with that?" As part of a new program, the SCHP is handing out certificates for free fast food at Chick Fil-A during traffic stops, at checkpoints and at other opportunities, provided of course, y'all have your seatbelts on.
Believe it or not, South Carolina is one of 12 states handing out free fast food coupons and other rewards to encourage drivers to wear their seatbelts. In cooperation with local Chic Fil-A franchise owners, officers have handed out more than 1,200 coupons since the program began Nov. 24. Many other states have similar enticement programs handing out certificates for ice cream (Ben & Jerry's, because it's Vermont), dollar bills (Maryland), music downloads (Nevada). In California, if you are wearing your seatbelt, they don't give you a ticket.
Statistics are a good reason in and of themselves to wear your seatbelts. Tom Crosby, vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas says that people are 16 times more likely to get killed if they are in an accident and not buckled up. But, he added, "If they get a little thank you for putting one on, I think that's a good thing to do."
Although the program began in only a few counties (Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester) over the holidays, it could go statewide if it shows results, according to Lance Cpl. Bob Beres, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol. But, there is a catch, Beres noted. "We want to reward people for doing the right thing, but if you have a DUI the chances are you're not going to get one," he said.
But the downside to the program could be that too many Chic Fil-A's, and maybe those seatbelts won't fit the way they're supposed to. Obesity may be almost as much of a public health hazard as lack of seatbelts. Still, you can't blame the SCHP for trying. After all, it just would not be economical to hand out certificates for organic veggies at Whole Foods.... unless they are interested? Now that would kill two birds (chickens?) with one stone.