Local law enforcement steps up nighttime seatbelt patrols

Published on Mon, May 24, 2010
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Nighttime drivers should take extra precaution to buckle up in the coming weeks as law enforcement agencies step up patrols for unbuckled drivers under the Click It or Ticket campaign.

In Whatcom County, Washington State Patrol and Whatcom County Sheriff’s department, as well as law enforcement agencies from Ferndale, Lynden, Bellingham, Western Washington University, will be providing extra patrols between May 24 and June 6.

Organizers say Click It or Ticket campaign moved to the hours of darkness three years ago because the traffic death rate at night is four times higher. Officials also expected the research to show that nighttime unbuckled drivers have worse driving records, which proved true.

Researchers observed drivers pulling into gas stations in five Washington cities during a 24-hour period over the course of 18 months. The driving records and criminal records of 5,035 motorists were analyzed. Comparisons were made between those who buckle up and those who don’t, and those who ride unbuckled during the day and at night.  The research was conducted on contract through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Washington has one of the highest seat belt use rates in the United States and has had since the Click it or Ticket Project began in 2002. The latest daytime observational survey showed seat belt use at 96.4 percent. The Click it or Ticket Project and the primary enforcement seat belt law resulted in a 21 percent drop in vehicle occupant deaths, from an average of 518 from 1995 to 2002, to an average of 410 from 2003 to 2009. During those same time periods serious injuries from traffic crashes dropped 25 percent.

Medical costs from traffic crashes amount to more than $276 million each year. A research study conducted by Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle found that an unbuckled motorist’s medical bills amount to $11,000 more per collision than that of a belted motorist, so improved seat belt use is not only saving lives, but also reducing medical costs to individuals and insurance companies.

For more information, visit www.wtsc.wa.