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Click It or Ticket campaign runs through Sunday

By Staff | May 29, 2012

Law enforcement agencies are continuing their efforts this week to educate the public with the Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement campaign.

The Cape Coral Police Department, Fort Myers Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol have joined officers and highway safety advocates across the country for the national campaign.

Click It or Ticket kicked off May 21 and runs through Sunday. During the campaign, law enforcement is cracking down on those not buckled up.

“The use of seat belts saves lives,” Lt. Donnie Fewell, of the LCSO Traffic Unit, said. “We’re trying to focus on usage because it is a safety issue.”

Florida law requires drivers and occupants in the front seat of a vehicle to fasten their safety belts, according to a prepared statement from the FHP. Occupants under 18, regardless of where they are sitting, must buckle up.

Those cited for failure to wear a seat belt face a non-moving violation.

“It became a primary offense last year,” Fewell said, explaining that law enforcement can stop vehicles and ticket people solely for not buckling up.

CCPD spokesman Lt. Tony Sizemore said the department is taking part.

“Same as always, just focusing on drivers who aren’t buckled up and trying to spread the word about seat belt safety,” he said.

Officers have been issuing warnings and citations as warranted.

“I think we’re just stepping up our traffic enforcement,” Sizemore said, adding that the Cape is not planning any concentrated operations.

The CCPD is participating to raise public awareness on the issue.

“Ultimately, what you want it to change behavior,” he said.

Fewell echoed that.

“It’s more of a public awareness type of thing where we try to educate the public on the value of wearing a seat belt,” he said.

“The statistics show that seat belt usage is one of the most important things you can do when involved in a crash to save lives,” Fewell said.

In Lee County in 2011, 92 percent of vehicle occupants surveyed reported that they use a seat belt. That percentage is down from 93 percent the year before, but it is up from the 90 percent who responded the same in 2009.

“We have very good compliance, but we still have fatalities,” he said.

In 2010, there were 180 drivers killed statewide who were not wearing a seat belt. In Florida, there were 4,803 people injured who were not buckled up.

Fewell noted that people were three times less likely to wear one at night.

“If we can save one life by wearing a seat belt, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

According to the FHP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that safety belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives nationwide in 2010.

Shelly Flynn, spokeswoman for the FMPD, reported that seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat car occupants by 45 percent, and they decrease the risk of fatal injury to pickup truck occupants by 60 percent.

Motorists will see digital message boards in Fort Myers reminding them to “buckle up and be safe,” she said. Officers are watching at intersections for violations and are ticketing unbelted drivers and passengers that they see.

“We just encourage people to wear their seat belts,” Fewell said.

“It’s something proven that saves lives,” he said.

Sizemore noted that numbers will be available at the end of the campaign.