By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville Police Department will begin cracking down on seat belt violations this week as a part of the 2011 “Click It or Ticket” campaign in conjunction with other local and national law enforcement officers and highway safety advocates.
“The officers will be working out of an overtime fund through a seatbelt enforcement grant,” Sergeant Shawn Word said. “There may be some checkpoints throughout the two week period.”
The campaign will run until June 5 when many people will be traveling for Memorial Day weekend. Officers will be on duty day and night to focus specifically on seat belt enforcement.
Nighttime enforcement is especially important to the campaign because seat belt usage goes down significantly at night. Nearly two-thirds of those killed in nighttime crashes in 2009 were not wearing seat belts.
“Many more nighttime traffic deaths can be prevented if more motorists simply started wearing their seat belts. That’s why Starkville PD is strongly supporting enhanced nighttime enforcement of seat belt laws during the May 23 - June 5, 2011, Click It or Ticket campaign,” Word said. “We will be out in force to remind drivers and occupants to always wear their seat belts, but day and night.”
Tickets will be issued for anyone in the front seats not wearing a seat belt. Children ages eight or younger must use a seat belt no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Children ages four and under must be in the proper restraints, like car seats. Tickets will be issued for each occupant in violation of seat belt or child restraint laws.
Click It or Ticket was started in North Carolina in 1993 as the first occupant protection program in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. By 2001, eight states, including Mississippi were participating in the program, that included an advertising campaign and highly visible enforcement. Increased enforcement has been credited with raising the national seat belt usage from 58 percent in 1994 to 85 percent in 2010.
“Law enforcement will be cracking down on Click It or Ticket violators around the clock. Local motorists should be prepared to buckle up,” Word said. “If our officers find you on the road unbuckled anytime or anywhere, you can expect to get a ticket.”