CHP to crack down on unbuckled drivers, passengers

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is participating in the Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign, which begins Friday, Nov. 18 and runs through Sun. Nov. 27. During this time, law enforcement throughout the state will be actively looking for drivers and passengers who are unbuckled.

Last year, CHP officers issued more than 155,000 citations to drivers and/or passengers who failed to buckle up. The minimum cost of an adult seat belt violation in California is $142, and up to $445 for not properly restraining a child under 16 years of age. If the parent is not in the car, the driver is issued the ticket.

“We would prefer not to write the ticket,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “I’d like to see everyone make safe choices and eliminate preventable tragedies on our roadways.”

There were 544 vehicle passengers killed in 2009 who were not wearing a seat belt or using a child safety seat, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. More than 9,400 others were injured under similar circumstances.

Click It or Ticket, a cooperative effort among the five traffic safety-related departments, has had a successful track record since its inception in 2005.

California’s seat belt usage rate has increased from a 90.4 percent in 2001 to a record-high of 96.02 percent in 2010.

This increase represents more than 1.25 million more vehicle occupants who buckle up.

“It’s encouraging to see seat belt usage is up and fatalities are at a record-low in California,” said Farrow. “Through this heightened statewide enforcement effort, our goal is to further increase seat belt and child passenger safety seat use, and continue to save lives.”

Thanksgiving Maximum Enforcement Period

The CHP will also be keeping a watchful eye on the motoring public as they head out on their road trips during the Thanksgiving Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP), which begins Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 6:01 p.m. and continues through Sunday, Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m.

This MEP coincides with the “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign.

“Our goal is to encourage motorists to make safe choices to prevent tragedies,” said Farrow.

The CHP is reminding all motorists to buckle up, observe the speed limit and not to drink and drive.

During the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, 21 people were killed in collisions throughout California. Among the five vehicle occupants killed in CHP jurisdiction, one person was not wearing a seat belt.

Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday, CHP made 1,546 arrests for driving under the influence, a nearly 6 percent increase from the same time the previous year.

“Whether it’s impaired or distracted driving, speeding because you’re in a hurry or you forget to buckle up, a careless decision made in an instant can hurt a family for a lifetime,” added Farrow.