Buckle up or pay price

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, May 25, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
It's a habit for some motorists and an inconvenience for others.
But this Memorial Day, if motorists do the crime, they'll pay the price.
The Atmore Police Department (APD) and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office (ECSO) will begin their latest installment of Click it or Ticket, a program designed to focus on seatbelt enforcement and other traffic violations. With money provided by the Alabama Department of Community and Economic Affairs (ADECA), participating departments increase patrols and focus on seatbelt usage and other traffic violations.
Since the campaign is being held Memorial Day weekend, both departments are using it as an opportunity to catch those who like to booze and cruise.
Atmore Police Chief Jason Dean believes the program is well worth the extra hours his officers have to put in.
"I think it's been very successful," Dean said. "It is extra money that we can pay additional officers to enforce the traffic laws in the state and I think it's very effective. I think that once people are aware that we are willing to participate in it I think they'll be more likely to use their seatbelts and obey the traffic laws. If they don't they will be cited."
ADECA awarded the APD $2,200 to assist the department in paying the officers that will work the extra hours to rove the streets.
Dean said he doesn't know when the next installment of the Click it or Ticket program will be, but stated that it is held several times a year and isn't always held in conjunction with Memorial Day weekend.
"We're just allotted so much money during certain times of the year around the holidays and we take advantage of that," Dean said. "It differs; it's not the same amount."
For motorists who think they are sly and decide to take the scenic route to the beach or lake, beware, the Escambia County Sheriff's Department will be in full force as well.
Sheriff Grover Smith is also an advocate of the program.
"I do know it saves lives," he said. "People are resentful of being of told what to do and not to do, but the tickets are only $10. We want to do everything that we can to encourage our young folks to use their seatbelts because they're the ones that are probably in the greatest danger. The use of seatbelts is directly related to the severity of the injury. I've never met a police officer that didn't believe that."
According to statistics published by the Alabama Department of Public Safety in its Alabama Traffic Crash Facts pamphlet, there were 1,001 people killed in 899 fatal traffic accidents in 2003 out of a total of 141,068 total accidents. Of those killed, 338 were not wearing a lap or shoulder belt, five were wearing only a lap belt, and 131 were not wearing a belt and the airbag deployed.
"Wearing seatbelts is the law and they save lives," Smith said. "It's time to face the facts, smoking cigarettes is bad for you and wearing seatbelts is good for you. Why fight it? When you're lying in the hospital with your knees smashed, it's too late to do anything about it. Your children are going to do what you do."
Smith said ADECA provided the ECSO with enough funding to compensate it for 70-to-80 hours of pay.
The APD's patrol times will vary on May 27-28, May 30 and June 3-4, while the sheriff's department will be patrolling primarily this Saturday. Smith is limiting his extra patrols to Saturday because of the holiday rush.
"That's when most people expect a high volume of traffic and unfortunately the consumption of alcohol will increase," Dean said.
Both Smith and Dean stressed that motorists take the time to fasten their seatbelts in hopes of making this Memorial Day a safe one.
"I've never been to a scene where a person was ejected wearing a seatbelt," Smith said.

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