State patrol cracks down on seat-belt slackers |

State patrol cracks down on seat-belt slackers

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Colorado law requires the use of seat belts in cars, and this month Colorado State Patrol and law enforcement agencies across the state are making sure drivers know it.

Authorities again launched the statewide “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign, an organized crackdown on those who don’t buckle up when they get behind the wheel.

“Troopers at the Colorado State Patrol are reminded nearly every day of the needless deaths that occur when someone neglects to wear a seat belt,” Col. Scott Hernandez of the CSP stated in a release on the campaign. “We are relieved when we respond to a crash where everyone survives because they took two seconds to buckle up. We would much rather write a seat-belt citation than a fatal crash report. That means no excuses and no warnings if you’re not buckled up.”

State statute makes seat-belt use a secondary offense for drivers and front-seat passengers, which means motorists can be ticketed for not being strapped in if they are stopped for some other violation. The seat-belt citation carries a $65 fee. Authorities will be focusing on speeding and aggressive driving during the Click It or Ticket campaign.

Officers handed out nearly 9,000 seat-belt violations during the enforcement period last year.

The campaign hit home in Summit County two years ago after a Summit High School junior, Elizabeth Murphy, was killed in a crash on Highway 9 north of Silverthorne in which she was not wearing a seat belt. Her younger sister, who was buckled up in the back seat, survived with only minor injuries.

Murphy’s death prompted a public push for seat-belt use locally, including a fundraising effort to purchase several signs reading “Got Seatbelt?” The signs, which also bear a pink heart with Elizabeth Murphy’s initials, are posted on Summit Stage buses and roadsides across the county.

The law requires all drivers under 18 and their passengers, regardless of age, to be buckled up and states that teens can be pulled over for not wearing a belt as a primary offense.

“We’ve made progress over the past year in reducing the number of people killed on Colorado roadways, but still far too many motorists aren’t buckling up,” Colorado Department of Transportation director of highway safety Darrell Lingk stated in the release. “The Click It or Ticket campaign gives us an opportunity to remind everyone that seat belts save lives.”

Last year 159 unbuckled drivers and passengers died in car accidents in Colorado. There were 185 such deaths in 2011.

The enforcement campaign this year is targeted at men between the ages of 18 and 34 who drive pickup trucks; those drivers are less likely to wear seat belts. Pickup drivers also have a rate of seat belt usage that is 10 percent below the state average, according to the release.

The enforcement period ends June 2.

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