Police urge motorists to buckle up, or face $124 fine

May 22, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The start of the summer travel season means the Issaquah Police Department is urging motorists to buckle up — or else — during ongoing Click It or Ticket patrols.

The patrols in Issaquah and elsewhere in Western Washington started May 21 and last through June 3. Violators face a $124 fine for not wearing a seat belt.

The effort launched as public safety officials celebrated the 10th anniversary of Washington’s primary seat belt law. Officials estimate the law requiring motorists to buckle up has saved 1,010 lives in the past decade.

Before state law changed to make seat belt violations a primary offense, law enforcement officers could only cite drivers for violations if the motorist violated the speed limit or broke another law.

“If you just do one community, then you’re reaching a smaller percentage of people,” Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said May 16. “If you do it regionwide on the same day or the same weekend, it’s a consistent message. It really reaches far more people.”

Besides the Issaquah Police Department, 37 agencies in Western Washington set out on local roads to look for unbuckled motorists and passengers.

Washington is a leader in seat belt use in the United States. Officials estimate 97.5 percent of motorists wear seat belts — up 82 percent since the primary seat belt law took effect in 2002.

Statewide, traffic deaths have declined from 658 in 2002 to 455 last year.

Despite the successes, officials estimate four out of 10 people killed in car crashes in Washington in the past five years did not wear seat belts.

“We are getting the word out to remind everyone to buckle up so we don’t have to write tickets,” Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick, a former Mill Creek state representative and sponsor of the 2002 legislation, said in a statement. “The purpose of the law is to save lives and I’m really pleased to see how far we’ve come.”

The patrols include police in nearby Bellevue, Newcastle, Renton and Snoqualmie. Washington State Patrol troopers joined the effort, too.

The effort is coordinated with support from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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