Motorists beware: A ticket if you don’t click it

The Kent Police will participate in a statewide nighttime “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement patrol on the next two Saturday nights, May 24 and 31.

Kent Police officer Jeff Williams sits in the department’s unmarked Dodge Charger patrol car

The Kent Police will participate in a statewide nighttime “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement patrol on the next two Saturday nights, May 24 and 31.

Kent Police issued 107 citations during an eight-hour night crackdown on drivers and passengers who failed to wear seat belts during a similar emphasis last spring. Kent Police cited 60 people during a crackdown last fall.

Kent will be among 46 law enforcement agencies participating in the nighttime seat belt enforcement project that began May 19 in other parts of the state. The extra patrols are funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

“It’s hard to tell if they have reduced things overall,” Kent Traffic Sgt. Rafael Padilla said May 13 about the previous emphasis patrols. “But one thing we did realize is there were a considerable number of people who didn’t wear seat belts.”

Padilla said a few people ticketed during the last two campaigns had excuses.

“They forgot to put them on,” Padilla said. “But the majority of them said they did not wear them.”

Washington law requires all vehicle occupants be properly restrained in all seating positions. A driver can be ticketed for every unbuckled passenger in the vehicle under the age 16. Anyone age 16 and up can get their own ticket. The fine associated with the ticket is $112.

A recent Washington Traffic Safety Commission analysis has shown the “Click It or Ticket” campaign may be helping to reduce fatalities on state roads, according to a WTSC media release.

In 2007, daytime and nighttime vehicle-occupant fatalities were lower, when compared to the average number of vehicle-occupant deaths in each of the previous 10 years. Nighttime vehicle-occupant deaths dropped 13 percent to 216 in 2007 compared to the 247 per year average for the previous 10 years. Daytime vehicle occupant deaths dropped 21 percent to 194 in 2007 from the average of 245 per year for the previous 10 years.

“We have a number of projects under way that are designed to reduce the number of traffic deaths on our roadways,” said Steve Lind, Traffic Safety Commission acting director, in a WTSC media release. “We are evaluating their effectiveness and early results indicate that the nighttime seat belt patrols are producing positive outcomes.”

Similar to past campaigns, unbuckled motorists are spotted by an officer, who radios ahead to a patrol vehicle to make the stop.

The WTSC is emphasizing nighttime seat belt patrols because the death rate for motorists is higher at night than during the day, Lind said.

Besides Kent, other King County cities participating the nighttime seat belt crackdown include Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Sea-Tac, Shoreline and Woodinville. The Washington State Patrol also is part of the emphasis patrols.

When the state’s seat-belt law passed in 1986, only 36 percent of motorists were buckling up, according to the WTSC. The state’s primary seat-belt law, which allows police to pull over unbuckled motorists, became effective in 2002, when seat belt-use hovered at 83 percent. The “Click It or Ticket” campaign also started in 2002 and now an estimated 96 percent of motorists buckle up, the WTSC says.

For more information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, go to www.wtsc.wa.gov.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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