Next week cops get serious about seat belt enforcement |

Next week cops get serious about seat belt enforcement

Heads up to drivers who don’t automatically buckle up.

All next week, police across the state will enforce a crackdown on motorists who fail to buckle up, or who don’t make sure their passengers are using seat belts.

“There are no warnings next week, folks. Put your seat belt on, or expect to get a summons,” said Glenwood Springs police officer Levy Burris.

Statewide, the crackdown goes by the clever name “Click It or Ticket.” The Colorado State Patrol and 108 city and county law enforcement agencies are paying officers for overtime to increase patrols for seat belt violators.

In Glenwood Springs, an extra three hours of patrols a day will continue through the week, all over town, Burris said.

Seat belt tickets can cost $27 for a driver who fails to buckle up, or $69, per child, for kids 15 and younger who aren’t buckled in.

A carload of unbuckled youngsters could lead to a costly trip to court, said Mairi Nelson, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

But avoiding a ticket and hefty fine are the least important reasons for drivers and passengers to wear a safety belt when driving. The chances of surviving an auto accident increase dramatically for those who wear seat belts.

Of the 14 people who died in car accidents during Thanksgiving week in Colorado last year, six were not wearing seat belts. During all of 2001, 63 percent of the 565 people who died on Colorado highways weren’t wearing seat belts, according to CDOT statistics.

Children are at an even higher risk for injury or death when they don’t wear seat belts, Burris said.

And statistics gathered in CDOT’s 2002 seat belt study show another startling trend: Children riding in cars with unbuckled drivers are far less likely to be buckled up themselves.

When a driver wears a seat belt, child passengers aged 4-15 were buckled up 85 percent of the time when they rode in the front seat, and 77 percent of the time in the back seat. But when drivers failed to buckle up themselves, only 19 percent of their child passengers wore seat belts.

The rates are a bit better for children under 4, who were buckled 28 percent of the time in the front seat and 66 percent of the time in the back seat.

Those statistics show that many parents deliberately buckle in young children with safety seats, but fail to make sure their kids are buckled up once they’re old enough to get in the car themselves, Nelson said.

“People driving minivans and SUVs are the predominant violators, because those vehicles are so large. You can see the kids moving around,” Burris said. “Those kids need to be seated and seat-belted.”

Under the newest state laws, booster seats are now required for children ages 4 and 5 and less than 55 inches tall. Child safety seats have been required for children 4 and younger since 1984, and the seat belt law was extended to kids 4-15 in 1995.

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