Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Cops on watch for belt use

Enforcement stepped up for holiday

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Police officers are facing an extra occupational hazard: writer's cramp.

"Our hope is that we would never have to issue a safety-belt citation," said Lt. Rick Fambro, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. "But in reality, that's not the case."

The patrol and more than 800 Ohio police agencies are cracking down on seat-belt violations as part of "Click it or Ticket," a national seat-belt enforcement effort. During this year's first crackdown, May 19 to June 1, Ohio officers wrote more than 20,000 seat-belt citations. The second enforcement wave, which began Wednesday, runs through Labor Day.

"The main focus is to save lives," Fambro said. Patrol officials said more than half of Ohio traffic fatality victims in 2002 were unbuckled.

"Wearing a safety belt is one of the easiest things people can do to reduce the chances of being injured or killed in a motor-vehicle crash," said Jeff Grayson, Ohio Department of Public Safety spokesman. "It takes two seconds, but it could be the difference between life and death."

Between April and July, Ohio's seat-belt use rate jumped 7.6 percentage points, to 73.1 percent - an all-time high, says a study Grayson's office released. On Monday, the federal government reported 79 percent of U.S. motorists wear seat belts, 4 percentage points higher than a year earlier. The usage rate was 14 percent in 1983.

"Very few people don't use seat belts these days," George W. Spaeth, 83, of Mason, said Monday while pumping gasoline at United Dairy Farmers on Tylersville Road at Ohio 42. But, he said, enforcement is needed "to protect people who won't protect themselves."

Spaeth said his former Mason life squad job taught him the value of seat-belt use. "There were many times when I could see it saved people from being killed or having more extensive injuries."

"Click it or Ticket" citations

Law enforcement agencies are now in the second wave of "Click it or Ticket," a zero-tolerance crackdown on motorists who fail to wear their seat belts.

During the first wave of the campaign, May 19 to June 1, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers wrote:

•  16,718 safety-belt citations:

•  232 child-restraint citations:

In addition, 166 other Ohio police agencies* issued:

•  3,932 adult restraint violations

•  152 child restraint citations

•  78 DUI arrests 20 and under

•  576 DUI arrests 21 and over

•  512 felony arrests

•  9,001 speed violations

•  2,777 suspended or revoked licenses

•  31,048 total hours of traffic enforcement

•  23,052 total traffic citations

*Note: About 640 other Ohio police agencies did not report figures.

Source: State of Ohio


The Associated Press contributed. E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com

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