Athens County seat belt violations exceed all neighboring counties

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Athens County exceeds all six of its neighboring counties in reported seat belt violations. 

According to reports from the State Highway Patrol, Athens County had over 453 reports of seat belt violations in 2024 as of May 20. This is over 10% more than the number of violations in the county at this time last year. 

Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser lights. An upcoming Click It or Ticket campaign will remind drivers about the importance of wearing a seat belt.
An upcoming Click It or Ticket campaign will remind drivers about the importance of wearing a seat belt. [Andy Chow | Statehouse News Bureau]
Washington County, which borders Athens, reported just 242 seat belt violations in that same period. 

While the number of violations has increased locally, seat belt use nationally remains high. According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt usage across the United States was 91.9% in 2023. 

Local law enforcement agencies have joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Click It or Ticket campaign to create visibility for seat belt safety across each of their jurisdictions. 

During the campaign, participating departments will be reminding drivers they pull over to buckle up behind the wheel and will be posting promotional content on social media. 

Agencies taking part in the campaign include the Athens Police Department, the Nelsonville Police Department, and the Athens County Sheriff’s Department. 

Athens Police Chief Nick Magruder believes taking part in the campaign creates awareness of the consequences of not wearing a seat belt. 

According to Magruder, the best way to see fewer violations is to teach the community to be safe. 

“The education portion of (the Click It or Ticket campaign), especially for the young community, really gets the mindset of how important it is,” Magruder said. “And that we expect people that drive in the city, ourselves and the community members (to) be wearing seat belts.” 

In the state of Ohio, the traffic safety law requires that anyone in the front seats wear a seat belt. Those in the back seats don’t have to unless they are under 15. 

Due to seat belt violations being a secondary offense in Ohio, an officer cannot stop a car just because someone isn’t wearing a seat belt. The driver must already have been lawfully stopped for another offense. 

The campaign is set to go through Memorial Day weekend and wrap up on June 2.