Law enforcement plans seat belt crackdownYou’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again and again – click it or ticket.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again and again – click it or ticket.
Law enforcement officials want the public to know that they are launching a new “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement effort this week.
The enhanced enforcement will run through June 6.
Law enforcement agencies across the state and locally, including the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Alexandria Police Department, the Osakis Police Department and the State Patrol, will be taking part in this wave of enforcement over the Memorial Day holiday.
At a news conference last Wednesday morning at the Douglas County Law Enforcement Center, Brandon Chaffins with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said law enforcement officers would rather meet motorists on the road and see that they have their seat belts on than to have to pull them over or worse, get called to a traffic accident where there are serious injuries or death.
The primary seat belt law, which has been in effect for nearly a year – it was put into law June 9, 2009 – will have an impact on this wave of the Click It or Ticket campaign.
“The primary seat belt law means drivers and all passengers must be buckled up, even those in the back seat,” said Chaffins. “Law enforcement can stop a vehicle and ticket anyone in it who is not belted.”
Kevin Guenther, a sergeant with the Alexandria Police Department, noted that recent statistics have shown an increase in nighttime fatalities, in which those who were killed were not wearing seat belts.
He said that more than 60 percent of motorists killed between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. were not wearing seat belts.
“This is significant and we plan to combat this issue with special nighttime seat belt patrols,” said Guenther.
He added that on Friday, May 28 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., local law enforcement officers will be conducting highly visible seat belt enforcement.
Guenther provided some statistics for Douglas County. During 2006-2008, there were 21 traffic deaths and six of those who died were not wearing a seat belt. Another eight were seriously injured because they were not wearing a seat belt, he said.
The common myth, said Guenther, is that someone involved in a crash does not cause harm to anyone else and he said that was, “Simply not true. Everyone pays for crashes.”
He continued, “These preventable deaths and injuries cost our communities greatly in medical assistance, emergency response costs and increased premiums. When someone is killed or injured in a crash and was not belted, that incident costs everyone.”
Both Guenther and Chaffins said the message is simple – “Wear your seat belt, or pay the fines.”
The fine in Douglas County for not wearing your seat belt is $110. The fines are set by state statute.
Trooper Andy Schmidt with the Minnesota State Patrol also provided some statistics; his were statewide.
In Minnesota, over the last three years, 118 teenagers – ages 16-19 – were killed in crashes and of those 118, 55 were not belted. Another 577 chose to not wear a seat belt and were seriously injured.
Fatal crashes tend to occur on roads in rural areas, according to the Minnesota Crash Facts Manual.
In 2008, 283 – 67 percent – of all fatal crashes occurred in rural areas, which are defined as having a population of less than 5,000 people.
The message sent out by law enforcement was simple – “You can avoid a ticket if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and of course, drive sober.”