Local police increase seat belt enforcement

May 19, 2014

Most people have heard about the catchy campaign “Click It or Ticket,” but a high number of drivers still shirk their seat belt obligations.

“Buckle up” is the message Washington County police and state Department of Transportation officials want drivers to remember this spring. North Franklin and Washington police rolled out their “Border to Border” safety checkpoint last night, and other departments throughout the county will ramp up seat belt enforcement and awareness efforts in coming weeks.

PennDOT issues federally funded grants to police departments in Pennsylvania to increase seat belt enforcement in conjunction with the national Click It or Ticket program. In Pennsylvania, seat belts are required for all individuals under the age of 18, in addition to all adult front seat passengers.

Not wearing a seat belt is a secondary offense for adults, which means anyone pulled over for a primary offense could face at least two fines for driving or riding unrestrained. A seat-belt ticket with costs and fines is at least $60.

Wearing a seat belt increases the chance of survival by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a truck or sport utility vehicle, according to the awareness campaign.

In Washington County last year, 59 percent of occupant fatalities on the road – excluding motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents – were individuals not wearing seat belts. In Greene County, it was 25 percent.

Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT, said that statistic is nearly half in the state of Pennsylvania.

“When you consider the fact that about 16 percent of the people, according to surveys, don’t use seat belts, but yet they account for 50 percent of the fatalities, that’s a huge number,” Ofsanik said. “So, it’s very important we get people to realize that not only is it much safer, and their chance for survival increases dramatically by using a seat belt, but it’s also the law.”

North Franklin and Washington police distributed educational pamphlets Monday evening on West Chestnut Street along the line between the two municipalities.

North Franklin police Chief Ron Fox said the primary goal is to educate motorists about the seat belt law, although police will continue to check for other primary offenses, such as expired registrations, during the enforcement campaign. Those motorists will be pulled aside and issued citations.

“If they roll through and everything checks out fine, and they do have their seat belts on, they’ll just keep on going,” Fox said.

In addition to Washington and North Franklin, participating municipal police departments in Washington County include Cecil, Donegal, McDonald, Mt. Pleasant, North Strabane and South Strabane. None is participating in Greene County. State police in Washington and Waynesburg also will increase enforcement.

The enforcement program in PennDOT’s Region 6 – which includes Washington and Greene counties – will continue until June 8.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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