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Law Enforcement Buckles Down on Buckling Up

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State and local law enforcement agencies across the country, including in our region, are buckling down on buckling up.

State troopers, like Pat Burke, are keeping their eyes open. Monday, May 21st, kicked off the border-to-border initiative for "Click It or Ticket," emphasizing seat belt use by increasing patrols until June 3rd. That first day, Idaho State Police troopers in District 2 cited 29 drivers for not using their seatbelt.

"We're always looking inside the vehicle and we notice they're not wearing a seatbelt, I mean we're looking for any and all violations we can find," Trooper Burke says. He barely gets out his sentence before he has to turn his car around. "That lady wasn't wearing a seatbelt."

In Idaho, not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense, meaning you can't be pulled over just for not buckling up.

"Kind of keeping our fingers crossed that one day they'll change that. Doesn't seem to be changing a lot of people's behavior," Trooper Burke says.

Every day, he sees drivers, passengers, and even children unsecured. Within the first ten minutes of Shannon Moudy's ride with him, he'd already pulled over one unbuckled driver for failure to stop at a stop sign; just one of three stops he'd make in just under two hours. Every driver pulled over wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

Trooper Burke introduces himself to one stopped driver, who didn't signal the required five seconds before changing lanes. "The reason I stopped you - what caught my attention is I didn't see you wearing your seatbelt there when you passed me." The woman is quick to admit she didn't fasten her belt after getting in the car. "I know, Iwasn't. I'm not going to lie."

It's not just about the ten dollar citation you'll face for not strapping on your belt, or the $66.50 for passengers under 18, or the $84 you'll pay for unsecured children under six.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016, nearly half (48%) of people killed when their car or truck crashed weren't wearing a seatbelt. Trooper Burke has seen the difference a seatbelt makes firsthand.

"Had rolled their car down an embankment. I did some digging and found out one of our troopers had given her a seatbelt violation...couple weeks [before]. Yeah, if she hadn't been wearing that seatbelt, she probably would've had some serious injuries or possibly died but after that trooper gave her that seatbelt [citation], she seemed to wear it after that. That's one of my favorite seatbelt stories."

That's what this campaign is about at it's heart: education and saving lives. Take, for example, the other statistic from 2016: an estimated 14,668 lives saved with just one click.

The latest numbers from the Idaho Transportation Department show while the number of seatbelt users nationally has trended upward, Idahoans still waver on wearing the belt, but stay consistently under the national average.

More on that report here: http://apps.itd.idaho.gov/apps/ohs/docs/obsrd2017final.pdf

Want even more?

- More on the Click It or Ticket campaign: https://www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/click-it-or-ticket

- Info for parents about proper safety restraints for children and where to get your car seat assessed: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#inspection-inspection

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