Some 800 law enforcement agencies around the state will want to know one thing while you're driving over the next two weeks - are you wearing your seat belt?
The wrong answer could cost in the neighborhood of $60 as police officers, sheriff's deputies, and state troopers work extra hours to make sure Ohio motorists are in compliance.
The special law-enforcement mobilization effort, referred to nationally as “Click It or Ticket,” began yesterday and will run through Sept. 2. Officers, many paid by a special grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be looking for seat-belt violators across the state.
“Our goal is for more motorists to wear seat belts, not to write tickets,” said Ashley Ellis, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “Every extra person that buckles up, we consider as a life saved.”
Officials point to state fatality figures this past weekend when seven of the eight people involved in traffic deaths in cars were not wearing seat belts.
In Ohio, seat-belt infractions are considered secondary violations, meaning law-enforcement officers can't stop a vehicle for a seat-belt infraction alone. The law requires that the driver and front-seat passenger wear seat belts at all times. Children under the age of 4, or under 40 pounds, must wear child restraints.
In Michigan, seat-belt infractions are primary violations, allowing law enforcement officers in the Wolverine State to stop you if they notice that you're not wearing the proper restraints.
Ms. Ellis said over the next two weeks, if an officer stops your vehicle for a moving violation and sees you're not wearing a seat belt, you will receive a ticket for the infraction. She said the first law-enforcement mobilization over the Memorial Day weekend this year showed an increase in seat-belt use for Ohio from 65.3 percent to 73.1 percent.
“That was an all-time high for Ohio,” Ms. Ellis said. “But we certainly would like to see that higher, and we think compliance can be higher. This time was picked because of the Labor Day weekend. It's a primary driving holiday with more vehicles on the road, which means the possibility for more accidents.”
Lt. George Jutze, of the Toledo post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said northwest Ohio has the highest seat-belt usage rate in the state. He said about 72 percent of drivers in this area wear their seat belts.
“We're real pleased with that figure, and we certainly want to see that continue and increase,” Lieutenant Jutze said. “We will have a zero-tolerance policy over the next two weeks.”
Lieutenant Jutze said troopers have signed up for the 53 hours of overtime available for extended patrol in the Toledo area. He said the state sees the seat-belt effort as a matter of saving lives.