Updated Sun, May 18, 2014 12:12 pm
Law enforcement officials across six states are cracking down on safety belt laws this coming week as part of the Click It or Ticket campaign aimed at reducing the number of lost lives and severe injuries caused in accidents in which seat belts were not being used.
The initiative kicks off Monday and lasts through Memorial Day. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police and West Virginia State Police are all participating in the campaign.
Locally, Lt. George Harlow of the Athens Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said troopers are already working Click It or Ticket diligently and are constantly reminded of Ohio seat belt laws. He said this year’s campaign has special meaning to the local post given the spike in fatal accidents in the area.
“It gives us a different sense of urgency this year,” Harlow told The Athens Messenger. “Several of the accidents had led to fatal or serious injury and seat belts were not in use.”
According to Sgt. Thomas Holbert, there have been five fatalities as a result of traffic accidents in Athens County since Jan. 1. Of those, only one person was wearing a safety belt. Since the beginning of the year, troopers have issued 575 citations to motorists not wearing safety belts in Athens and Hocking counties.
A news release from the highway patrol states that 10,335 vehicle occupants who died in 2012 were not wearing their safety belts at the time of the crash. Last year in Ohio, 59 percent of the people killed were not wearing a safety restraint.
“Too many drivers and passengers are not wearing their safety belts, and it all too often ends in tragedy,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent in the release. “It doesn’t matter which state you’re driving in — I want you to get home safely.”
In Ohio, the Click It or Ticket program will continue past Memorial Day to June 1. The Athens Police Department is also participating in the venture through June 1. A news release from the department states, “As the busy summer driving season kicks off and Athens motorists take to the roads for
Memorial Day holiday, it’s important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night, no excuses.”
“It’s simple — safety belts save lives and reduce injury in crashes,” said John Born, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, in the release. “It is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your friends.”
In 2012, safety belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives nationwide according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While this year’s Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization runs through June 1, troopers will continue their zero tolerance policy year-round when motorists are stopped for other violations and are found to not be wearing their safety belt.
Troopers ask that you wear your safety belt every time and insist that those who travel with you buckle-up as well. Law enforcement and other safety partners will be holding awareness events and educational activities to stress the importance of safety belt use around the state during the mobilization.