Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station patrol officers, along with their counterparts from other law enforcement agencies, are on the lookout for unbelted drivers and passengers around the clock in a campaign that started Monday and runs through June 5.
Although officers ticket seat-belt violators year-round, law enforcement groups specially enforce the state’s mandatory seat belt law in late May because it is generally a peak time for road travel, according to Traffic Sgt. Mark Slater of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Seat belt fines have increased from a minimum of $80 in 2005 to $142 for an adult found not wearing their seat belt. For a child under 16 not wearing a seat belt, the fine is at least $445 and applies to the driver.
“Obviously the younger the child, the more serious the fines, because there is less a responsibility among younger children for following seat belt laws….a 6-year-old doesn’t say, ‘Hey Mom and Dad, I need to be in a seat belt’,” said Slater.
Even if a passenger is 18 or older and chooses not to wear a seat belt, the driver can be ticketed along with the violator, as it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure all passengers are wearing seat belts, Slater said.
Since 2005, the Click it or Ticket campaign mobilization has been successful in increasing the state’s adult belt usage rate from 92.5% to 96.2% in 2010.
“We are very proud of California’s seat belt and child safety seat use rates,” Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, said in a news release this week.
Seat belt usage is up, but Murphy notes that there are nearly one million Californians who aren’t buckling up. Most egregious among these drivers are teens whose seat belt usage trails adults by 5%.
Cissy Belcher, mother of two who drives her children and her children’s friends, approves of the increased seat belt enforcement. “We always wear our seat belts and we don’t even back out of the driveway until we have them on. It’s really not up for discussion,” Belcher said, as she visited Penguin’s in La Cañada on Monday.
According to a press release from OTS, properly restrained drivers, passengers and children have a 50% better chance of surviving a crash than those who do not wear their seat belts.