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Police making sure drivers are wearing seatbelts

By Staff | May 26, 2010

Officers from the Cape Coral Police Department are out this week educating the community and enforcing the state’s new seatbelt law under the Click It or Ticket campaign.
The statewide enforcement campaign is now in its 10th anniversary and backed up by a 2009 statute permitting officers to pull over drivers who aren’t buckled up. From May 24 to June 6, local officers have set up enforcement details and those on patrol are also keeping an eye out.
Cpl. Andrew Satterlee with the Cape Coral Police Department said the operation is more focused on educating the public about the importance of buckling up, rather than increasing citation numbers.
“It is about educating the new state law on seat belt usage, to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities in traffic crashes,” he said.
The 2010 campaign is in three waves — this spring in March, May and sometime this fall. There have been commercials broadcast statewide, banners at overpasses and local media have been covering the campaign.
Motorists who are pulled over can receive either a verbal or written warning, explained Satterlee, or a traffic citation, meaning not every person pulled over during the campaign will get a ticket.
Seven officers spent Wednesday afternoon pulling over motorists without seat belts on the corner of Del Prado Boulevard and Veterans Parkway, an intersection that experiences a higher rate of crashes. Officers will also focus on other high-crash areas, including the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Santa Barbara Boulevard and Southeast 24th Avenue and Viscaya Parkway.
An integral component of the campaign is studying what effect enforcement has on the percentage of people wearing seatbelts. Officers conduct a pre-and-post survey of each roadway to track whether there are any changes.
Satterlee said 72 percent of motorists on the intersection of Del Prado Boulevard and Veterans Parkway wore a seat belt before enforcement began, and they are hoping to increase that amount by June 6.
When local officers recently pulled over those not wearing seatbelts on Southeast 24th Avenue and Viscaya Parkway, seatbelt usage jumped from 72 to 92 percent between the two surveys.
By June 6 there will have been several hundred traffic stops, said Satterlee, who has worked traffic homicides for the last seven years and said not enough people wear seatbelts.
“I’d rather have my seatbelt on and have an injury to my collarbone than having my face strike the windshield,” he said.
The new law is also clear about how motorists should wear their seatbelt. If the belt is on, but the shoulder strap is tucked under the arm, that motorist isn’t properly wearing the device and they can be ticketed.
Since March 31, 2010, there have been 10,401 tickets issued in Lee County, according to the state’s Click It or Ticket website.
For more information, visit www.clickitfla.com.