ST. GEORGE — Hundreds of officers in Utah, and thousands more nationwide, kicked off a multistate blitz this week enforcing click-it-or-ticket laws with a zero-tolerance message.
“Seat belt use is the single most effective way to survive a crash,” Utah Highway Patrol Colonel Michael Rapich said in a statement released this week.
Driving or riding unbuckled will result in a ticket, no matter which state you are in.
In 2018, Utah Highway Patrol troopers reported one death notification per day over the course of the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” on average, during which 102 people died on Utah’s highways – up from 90 a year earlier.
Friday is the start of the deadliest 100 days. UHP troopers have joined forces with law enforcement agencies throughout Utah and six neighboring states in a national mobilization to kick off the “Border to Border” operation.
It’s part of a national seat belt awareness campaign aimed at increasing seat belt use across state lines by coordinating high visibility enforcement. Utah is partnering with law enforcement agencies in neighboring states, including: Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona.
The “Border to Border” initiative runs simultaneously with the “Click It or Ticket” campaign and runs through June 2, which also happens to be one of the busiest travel and holiday weekends of the year, Rapich said.
More than 60 law enforcement agencies across the state will work more than 5,500 overtime hours to stop motorists who aren’t wearing a seat belt. It is strategically timed to run during the 100 deadliest days of summer, an effort that has kept the Department of Public Safety very busy, UHP Sgt. Nick Street told St. George News.
The St. George Police Department is also gearing up for a busy weekend with an anticipated rise in the number of vehicles on the road, which means motorists need to be even more alert while driving, St. George Police officer Tiffany Atkin told St. George News.
“Obey traffic signals, slow down and with the influx of traffic we need an influx of patience,” she said.
Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams shared similar comments and reiterated that drivers need to slow down and cut the distractions while driving.
“We can get all wrapped up in our busy lives which doesn’t work in heavy traffic,” Williams said. “Be courteous to other drivers and just slow it down.”
Highway safety – it’s in the numbers
In 2018 nearly 90% of Americans were properly restrained while driving, and seat belts are considered the best defense against impaired, aggressive and distracted drivers, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says.
Of the more than 37,100 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, nearly half were not wearing seat belts, and more than half were killed at night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
As such, participating law enforcement agencies will be scouring the roadways, writing citations day and night.
Also in 2017 an estimated 14,955 lives were saved and another 2,549 could have been had they been properly restrained at the time of the crash.
Research shows that buckling up in a passenger car cuts the risk of death or serious injury by nearly half, and in a light truck those numbers increase to more than 60%.
Arizona Highway Patrol Trooper Tom Callister said it is heartbreaking to see what a crash can do to the human body, which he has witnessed more times that he can count during his 14-year career.
Callister said two of the most important safety recommendations to increase safety while traveling are: “Number one, wear your seat belt; number two, reduce your speed. In that order,” he said.
Callister also reminded drivers to keep their children properly restrained, even during a long trip. Many times parents will unbuckle their children who have been in the car seat for hours while the vehicle is still moving. It’s “a huge mistake,” he said.
“They can be ejected through the rear window. I know – I’ve seen the aftermath.”
Callister added that removing the shoulder strap from the car seat is also very dangerous, as the child’s hips are not strong enough to endure the forces of the crash or keep them in their seat.
Border to Border – is it working?
“Why did we enforce seat belt laws? Because they don’t get a second chance in a crash,” the Border to Border mission statement says.
During the one-day launch of the campaign that took place May 21, 2018, more than 170 troopers from 17 patrol districts issued 748 warnings and wrote more than 100 seat belt citations. Each year thousands of citations for seat belt and child safety seat violations are issued throughout the two-week campaign.
The effort has become effective in 43 states nationwide with results that speak to the collaboration of the state, county and local law enforcement agencies, Rapich said.
In a six-state average, Utah had the second-highest seat belt use rate in 2018, and those numbers continue to rise each year, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.
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