By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Although seat belt usage is a yearlong focus of area law enforcement, authorities will be extra vigilant for unrestrained drivers beginning May 20 when the 2013 “Click It or Ticket” campaign gets underway. The campaign runs through June 2.
The national seat belt enforcement campaign is designed to help save lives by cracking down on those who don’t buckle up.
Pulaski and Dublin police departments and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office are joining with other state and local law enforcement officers and highway safety advocates across the country to help save more lives by strongly enforcing all traffic laws, especially seat belt laws, around the clock.
“Seat belt use is just too important to ignore”, said Officer Megan Jennings with Pulaski Police Department. “We want to stress that regularly buckling up works, and we know of too many cases, largely at night, that all too often end in tragedy.” She added, “Our goal is to save more lives, so Pulaski Police Department will be out enforcing all traffic laws including seat belt use around the clock.”
Pulaski County Sheriff Jim Davis said deputies enforce seat belt laws all year long, but the department will be stepping up enforcement of seat belt and child restraint laws during the campaign.
“Our deputies work vehicle accidents daily and we see how seat belt usage and properly used child restraints reduce injuries and save lives,” he said. “Most of us (officers) have also been involved in a wreck where seat belts were” a factor in preventing or reducing injuries.
In Dublin, Chief Dennis Lambert said motorists will see more officers on the town streets during the campaign.
“The month of May, with the Memorial Day holiday included, is usually a time of heavy traffic and higher accidents,” Lambert said. “The weather is warmer, pools are opening, people are having picnics, and heading to the beach and lakes or traveling to see family and friends. As chief of police in Dublin, I want to urge our citizens and everyone that passes through our fair town to wear their seatbelts and drive cautiously and safely.”
He added, “The ‘Click It or Ticket’ enforcement will be underway this month and although our officers are always enforcing traffic laws and seatbelt violations, you will see a higher number of Dublin officers out to crack down on unsafe motorists so that everyone can arrive at their destinations.”
Virginia’s seat belt usage rate was 78.43 percent in 2011 (using a new survey methodology), and there is still much work to be done.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicle’s Highway Safety Office’s TREDS (Traffic Records Electronic Data System), preliminary 2012 statistics show there were a total of 774 fatalities in Virginia, 305 of which were unrestrained at the time of the crash. Of the unrestrained fatalities, 28 percent resulted from crashes that occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight and 25 percent occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.
Regular seat belt use saves thousands of lives across Virginia each year. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that in 2011 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 272 lives in Virginia. It is estimated an additional 112 lives could be saved with 100 percent seat belt use.
The chiefs and sheriff say everyone in a vehicle should buckle up every time they go out, both day and night. But they remind those who choose to disobey the law that their officers are prepared to ticket anyone who is violating the seat belt law, no warnings and no excuses.