This is a number drivers and passengers can be proud of

Thumbs up: Seat Belt Use

Wow. What else can be said about the latest survey that found almost 98 percent of Washington motorists are using their seat belts. That’s one of the highest rates in the nation, according to officials with the state’s Traffic Safety Commission. The percentage of Washington drivers and passengers using seat belts rose to 97.6 percent this year, an improvement of 1.2 percentage points from 2009. The usage rate has been hovering around 96.4 percent for several years. “The closer we get to 100 percent seat belt use, the more difficult it becomes to realize higher use rates,” said Traffic Safety Commission Director Lowell Porter. “To jump from 96.4 to 97.6 percent is truly a significant improvement that moves Washington closer to its goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.” Washington law requires seat belts on all passengers, and police can write tickets for noncompliance without any other infraction taking place. The survey is conducted annually for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The increase of 1.2 percent in the past year means that one third of nonusers in 2009 became seat belt users in 2010, truly an amazing accomplishment given that Washington has maintained one of the highest seat belt use rates in the nation for so many years,” said Dick Doane, research investigator with the commission.

Thumbs down: BIAW

After years of professing innocence, an arm of the Building Industry Association of Washington has agreed to pay $242,000 in immediate penalties to settle a lawsuit over its one-year delay in reporting money raised to aid Dino Rossi’s 2008 campaign for governor. The builders group had vilified Attorney General Rob McKenna because McKenna would not let the BIAW off the hook. Month after month in the builders’ newsletter, they belittled McKenna’s settlement offer of $900,000 saying the attorney general was trying to extort money from their organization. Now the builders’ Member Services Corporation has agreed to a settlement of $584,000. But $342,000 is suspended if the organization can keep from violating campaign disclosure laws until Dec. 31, 2016. That seems unlikely. This is the second-highest sanction in recent history against those who don’t follow PDC rules. The Washington Education Association paid sanctions of $975,000 for using nonmember fees to promote initiatives in 2000. BIAW officials say they aren’t admitting guilt by agreeing to the fine and $50,000 in attorney fees. Spokeswoman Erin Shannon said, “I would say we agreed to this settlement because fighting government – which has access to unlimited resources in a government town with a government court predisposed to favor government – is a losing battle.” Sounds like sour grapes.

Thumbs up: Sand Man

Here’s a bit of great news for Olympia’s maritime history buffs. The historic Sand Man tugboat which has plied the waters of Budd Inlet since 1910 has a new set of navigational lights to replace the ones stolen in March. Though the historic value of the lights is irreplaceable, a wooden boat enthusiast has donated a set of lights that are a close substitute. Robin Paterson, who owns the 1942 tugboat Joe, salvaged lights from a 1912 tugboat that was being scrapped. “They look the same,” said Kyle Murphy, president of the Sand Man Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns the boat moored at Percival Landing. The red and green Perko lenses were originally lit with oil lamps. Eventually, light bulbs became the preferred illumination source. Paterson said he asked the owner of the 1912 tugboat being readied for the scrap yard, “Can I beg, borrow or steal them from you because someone has stolen the lights off the Sand Man?” He got them for free, and announced his donation during Harbor Days. Murphy said the lights will be installed soon, bolted down to avert another theft. That’s great news.

Thumbs up: Drop Boxes

Here’s some sobering statistics. Three in five teens say they have gotten prescription pills from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Youth admission to state-funded treatment programs for prescription opiates is 19 times as high as in 2001. And drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state. It’s clear that we, as individuals and as a society, must do a better job of keeping prescription drugs out of the hands of youngsters. And on that front, there is some good news. The number of official drop-off boxes for unwanted prescription drugs continues to grow in Thurston County. As a result, fewer youngsters will have access to dangerous and addictive drugs and the environment will benefit too because parents won’t be flushing them down the toilet or sending them to the landfill. Thurston County residents with surplus or unused prescription drugs have five collection sites they can use: the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Group Health Cooperative, and the Tenino, Tumwater and Lacey police departments. The Yelm Police Department has ordered a collection box to post outside its office too. Together, along with The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, has launched an educational program called RX360 to teach parents and families how to properly store, monitor and dispose of prescription drugs. Now it’s up to prescription users in South Sound to make sure their surplus drugs are properly disposed of in one of the safe drop boxes.